I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
We have started the transition process (something that is not offered by many of the voucher schools or guaranteed under the special needs voucher) for assisting my son Tyler with achieving his employment goal of community based, competitive wage employment. We met with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) late in the school year and in the last week; we have met with a supported employment agency that will assist the school with creating some job experiences. What impressed my wife when we were scheduling the meeting is that DVR insisted that Tyler be a part of the process, not his parents making the decision for him. Since this is a plan for the individual, it is vitaly important that they are present and part of the process.
Having talked with many families about their DVR experiences, I thought that I would help explain the process as we go along. I think that in some cases DVR is a misunderstood service. One thing to remember, at this point, DVR is not the agency that is going to assist individuals in finding employment. While DVR has created a business development aspect to their profile, other than the individuals and their supports, the supported employment agency is the one who helps find those work experiences. DVR helps to fund the supported employment agency services. If you are not happy with the supports that you are receiving, you can request to work with a different supported employment agency. I realize that not every area of the State may have more than one choice, but I strongly encourage you to work with your DVR counselor in order to achieve your employment goal, not the goal which may easier for others to help you to obtain. You don't have to settle by focusing on your 5th choice of careers, be persistent and focus on what you want to do.
It was a lengthy interview process between Tyler, his parents, DVR and the supported employment agency. But in the long run, it is going to be well worth it. We talked about Tyler’s strengthens and weaknesses. Being an advocate, my work with the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities and trainings through my employer, my wife and I are well versed on the process. I think that one of the last questions really defines what type of work experiences Tyler is going to have the opportunity to participate in. My wife are strong believers in community based, competitive wage employment opportunities. I know that DVR believes in the same. This was actually an easy question for us to answer, Tyler included. Tyler wants to work in his community, integrated with his peers that he goes to High School with, integrated with the student body.
It was a really good week for community based employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The US House passed the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act, already passed by the Senate. The State of Maryland is ending contracts with facility based or sheltered workshops.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid issued some guidance on Home and Community Based Servies Waiver (HCBS), which states that the first option for employment should be in the community.
So the timing is right for Tyler to achieve his goal of community based employment at competitive wages, not sub-minimum wage.
I will keep you posted as to the progress and process as we move along.