The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Erik Carter, Ph.D., and Elise McMillan, J.D., served as guest editors of the Spring 2014 issue of Connections: Pathways to Meaningful Employment for Youth and Young Adults with Significant Disabilities.
Connections is published by TASH, a national organization dedicated to the equity, opportunity, and inclusion of people with disabilities. Carter is associate professor of Special Education and VKC investigator. McMillan is co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), director of Community Outreach, and a senior associate in Psychiatry.
This issue of Connections has been released at a time of increased focus on transition and employment, particularly for individuals with severe disabilities. Publications such as the TASH Connections issue are contributing to the growing national conversation around how to change the employment landscape for people with disabilities.
As Carter and McMillan point out in their introduction, nearly three-quarters of young adults with severe disabilities have not been employed in any setting two years after leaving high school. Those young people with disabilities who are employed often work in segregated settings for low-wage jobs (Carter, Austin, & Trainor, 2012). The overall unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the rate of people without disabilities according to the Department of Labor.
The special issue included multiple articles by VKC faculty and staff:
- “Holding High Expectations from an Early Age” by Rachael Jenkins, TennesseeWorks program coordinator, and Courtney Taylor, M.Div., VKC Communications associate director;
- “Promoting Employment Outcomes Through Postsecondary Education Programs,” co-written by Taylor and Tammy Day, M.Ed., Next Steps at Vanderbilt program director, and others;
- “Answering Employers’ Questions About Hiring People with Significant Disabilities,” co-written by Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D., research assistant professor in Pediatrics and VKC UCEDD associate director of adult community services;
- “Perspective: It Feels Really Good to Have a Job,” by Next Steps at Vanderbilt alumna Rachel Pearson; and
- “Changing the Conversation: Engaging Local Communities in New Discussions About Competitive Employment,” co-written by Carter, Special Education doctoral student Carly Blustein, TennesseeWorks educational consultant Jennifer Rowan, and former TennesseeWorks director Sarah Harvey.
These articles all identify key pathways crucial to increasing employment outcomes for young people with disabilities, illustrating the importance of engaging and collaborating with multiple stakeholders including self-advocates, families, educators, employers, and communities.
Carter and McMillan are co-principal investigators for TennesseeWorks, a Project of National Significance funded through the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The project prioritizes integrated, competitive employment as the first and preferred option for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
For more information on these projects, visit www.partnershipsinemployment.com
For more information on TennesseeWorks, visit www.tennesseeworks.org
Click here to view the Employment issue of TASH Connections.
Pictured top of page: Next Steps at Vanderbilt students graduate. Postsecondary education is one pathway to meaningful employment. Photo by Vanderbilt / Joe Howell.