The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration and Office of Disability Employment Policy jointly fund and administer the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI).  As of October 2014, DOL has awarded over $95 million to 26 states to support DEI employment strategies in the public workforce system.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development DEI grant provides an outstanding example of their DEI Disability Resource Coordinator, Sharyn Hancock, working with Tyler Butler, a job seeker with a disability to achieve a successful employment outcome. Tyler Butler was 30 years old with no prior work history when he first accessed his local American Job Center.  Mr. Butler is legally blind and uses a service dog which created challenges in terms of his locating employment.  As a Social Security Income (SSI) beneficiary, Mr. Butler was also a Ticket Holder under the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work program.  As Ms. Hancock worked with Mr. Butler, he decided to assign his Ticket to their Workforce Essentials Job Center.  

With the facilitation of other staff at the Job Center, a paid work experience was established with Ingram’s Computers, a small business in the local area.  Mr. Ingram was impressed by Mr. Butler’s passion for working with computers and recognized that his background in IT security systems could expand his business model and provide added benefits to Ingram’s customers.  Mr. Butler recently shared that: “Things are going well. I am on the payroll and soon we will be rolling out a security audit service that I have designed.”  An added benefit was Mr. Ingram’s dog friendly work-environment which readily welcomed Mr. Butler’s seeing-eye dog.  

This success story demonstrates the power of the American Job Center system, with the assistance of DRC support, to work with individuals with significant challenges and achieve gainful employment that leads to economic self-sufficiency.  With access to resume development, interview skills training and actual work experience, Mr. Butler was able to demonstrate his skills and dedication on the job.  The DRC further assisted in coordinating access to a job coach who helped in employment planning, a Community Work Incentives Planning and Assistance staff person at the local independent living center as well as to a Social Security Administration case manager to assure his benefits were accurately handled.  As an Employment Network under the Ticket to Work program, Workforce Essentials will also accrue income for use with other individuals with disabilities in the years ahead.  



Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training
Disability Employment Initiative Success Story
 
The Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) is designed to: 1) improve educational, training, and employment
opportunities and outcomes of youth and adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed, and/or
receiving Social Security disability benefits; and 2) help these individuals with disabilities find a path into
the middle class through exemplary and model service delivery strategies.  The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) was awarded a DEI grant from the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) in September of 2012.  Their grant includes establishing a Disability Resource Coordinator (DRC) and becoming an Employment Network (EN) under Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work (TTW) program, among other promising practices.  The following DEI Success Story was submitted by Vincent Rossi, DEI Program Manager, and is a powerful example of the impact DEI practices and the public workforce can have on an individual with a disability who is unemployed or under-employed for many years:
 
Richard James was a practicing attorney, father to three girls, husband and owner of multiple businesses, as
well as a high-ranking political official and legal counsel to the governor of Rhode Island, when he sustained
a serious injury in April of 1998.  Mr. James experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while attending a
sporting event and a 100 pound arena light detached and fell on him.   He also incurred significant nerve
damage resulting in loss of 80% use of his left arm, and 10-15% loss of use of his right hand.   The TBI
resulted in personality changes and speaking problems, along with a growing addiction to alcohol and
prescription medications.   Mr. James reported that in the year following his accident, he experienced a “fast
downhill slide” that negatively affected his family relationships, social life and career.

Over the next few years, Mr. James “went on a walkabout”, became homeless and addicted to narcotics and
alcohol.  He sought out substance abuse treatment in 2001 and successfully achieved sobriety over the years.  
He was able to maintain this through injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in 2012.  Although Mr. James
worked sporadically since 2008, he was interested in more permanent, professional-level employment and accessed the Rhode Island job center, netWORKri, in April 2014.
 
At the time Mr. James entered the job center he was receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and
was a Ticket Holder under TTW as well as an Air Force veteran.   The netWORKri Disabled Veteran’s Outreach
Program (DVOP) specialist, Roger Richards, worked with the DEI DRC, Ellen Heleen, to discuss Mr. James’
employment goals.  As part of the DEI Integrated Resource Team (IRT) approach, they included other workforce
team members including the DEI Business Service Specialist, Sheila Bliven and DVOP specialist, Brenda
Tetreault.  Upon completing an updated resume, Mr. James was referred to AmeriCorps who identified a more
appropriate fit for Mr. James background than the initial job profile.  He also assigned his Ticket to the job
center.
 
With the support of the DEI and job center staff, and his improving self-confidence, Mr. James completed the
process of reinstating his law license and began rebuilding his professional network.   One of those
professional connections led to an employment opportunity at a small local law firm.  Mr. James was hired by
them in mid-May where he is reviewing cases that need a fresh approach and the firm has been very pleased with his innovative solutions.

Mr. James’ story is a unique and compelling one of endurance and overcoming multiple barriers despite
overwhelming challenges.  It is also a story of the impact the public workforce system, along with the DEI and
DVOP support structure, can make on the life and economic well-being of customers with disabilities and
significant challenges to employment. 

The Disability and Employment Community of Practice (CoP) has initiated focusing on a theme each month to provide resources, information, and assistance to workforce professionals working with job seekers with disabilities or other significant barriers to employment.  The theme during the month of March is on Assistive Technology (AT) solutions that can improve the delivery of services within America's Job Centers (AJC); but, more importantly, remove barriers to employment and the workplace for most job seekers with disabilities.  

There are many resources available to assist workforce professionals and AJCs learn about AT software and products that address a diverse range of disabilities.  This CoP will be highlighting videos that demonstrate these products and how assessment of accommodation requirements might be conducted.  Technology breakthroughs have transformed how we all live and work, and is all the more applicable in addressing sensory, communication, cognitive, and mobility challenges experienced by many individuals with disabilities.  These are often low in cost and involve one-time expenditures.  It is hoped that information on AT solutions during March will enlighten AJC staff and the business community on these innovative practices. 

Visit the Disability and Employment CoP Discussion Thread to share what AT solutions your AJC has implemented and how you have been using it in your job center.  Let us know if the business community and employers are aware of AT and how it can improve productivity and efficiency in their workforce. Are local educational institutions using AT in their training programs or educational instruction?  

As you may know, only 18.3% of people with disabilities are considered to be participating in the labor force compared to 68.3% of those without disabilities. Their unemployment rate is 13.3% compared to 6.8% for those without disabilities.  The public workforce system can be an important factor in improving these statistics and expanding economic opportunity for these job seekers.

.Join this Webinar on January 22, 2014, from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm ET for a presentation on MyFreeTaxes, a free, inclusive tax preparation tool in which taxpayers earning $58,000 or less can prepareand file their federal and state taxes online in all 50 states. Hear about how American Job Centers across the country are incorporating MyFreeTaxes as part of their service delivery modelto help customers in the low- to moderate-income range increase their financial stability. 

The MyFreeTaxes Webinar is offered by the LEAD Center.  To learn more, please go to: http://www.realeconomicimpact.org/Events.aspx?id=258

To register for this Webinar, please go to: https://leadcenter.webex.com/mw0401l/mywebex/default.do?nomenu=true&siteurl=leadcenter&service=6&rnd=0.19757278007332868&main_url=https%3A%2F%2Fleadcenter.webex.com%2Fec0701l%2Feventcenter%2Fevent%2FeventAction.do%3FtheAction%3Ddetail%26confViewID%3D1004917143%26%26%26%26siteurl%3Dleadcenter

In partnership, Microsoft and GW Micro announced improved access to Microsoft Office for people who are blind or have low vision.   Customers who have purchased and installed any version of Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013, including both perpetual and subscription clients, are eligible to download a free copy of Window-Eyes, GW Micro's widely used and highly regarded screen reading software.

Microsof has partnered  with GW Micro  to improve access to the Microsoft's Office suite including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook.  To learn more about Window-Eyes, get details on available geographies and languages, as well as the process to qualify for the free software download, visit.

To view the Microsoft announcement, please go to:  http://blogs.office.com/b/office-news/archive/2014/01/14/announcing-improved-access-to-office.aspx 

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