Expanding their options
The news story “Options limited for special-needs students after graduation” described the challenges facing young people with disabilities after high school graduation. 21 and Able, an initiative of United Way of Allegheny County, creates a roadmap for young adults with disabilities transitioning out of the education and supportive services system to help them work, live independently and actively participate in their communities.
In September, we launched the Career Transition Liaison Project with Allegheny County, Giant Eagle and Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services. A full-time employee was hired to the Giant Eagle team to develop employment plans, identify job opportunities and facilitate success for individuals with disabilities. The first year's goal was to hire 12 employees; Giant Eagle hired 24 young people, most of whom are still employed. We hope to replicate this model across the region.
21 and Able is working on policy solutions. State Rep. Thomas Murt, R-Philadelphia, and 19 colleagues introduced House Bill 2405, which develops connections between local education agencies and private employers to help high school graduates transition to the workforce. Please ask your state representatives for their support.
All people who desire to work should have the opportunity to do so. Young people with disabilities deserve more than a future of isolation and uncertainty. They deserve the opportunity to build and use their skills to make contributions in the workplace and lead independent, fulfilled lives.
The writer is volunteer and initiative chairperson for 21 and Able (21andAble.org).