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Working Relationships

Working Relationships

Creating Career Opportunities for Job Seekers with Disabilities Through Employer Partnerships
Authors: Richard G. Luecking, Ellen S. Fabian Ph.D., George P. Tilson   Chapter Authors: Jo Ann Hutchinson, J. Erin Riehle M.S.N., Mark Donovan, Sara Murphy, Debra Martin Luecking

ISBN: 978-1-55766-709-0
Pages: 304
Copyright: 2004
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Stock Number:  67090
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All businesses have needs. People with disabilities have the skills and desire to work. As employment specialists work to match employers with job seekers, they need to do more than understand the job seeker's personal and professional goals—they also need to know exactly what the employers are looking for. That's what Working Relationships is about: securing satisfying jobs for people with disabilities by fostering partnerships between employment specialists and businesses. A must-read for all employment service providers and for anyone interested in employment of people with disabilities, this book helps readers

  • understand the theoretical framework for improving career development practices through relationship building
  • understand what employers want and expect from employment service providers
  • learn about the building blocks of strong partnerships with employers: beliefs and values, communication skills, multicultural competence, ethics, and self-efficacy
  • find practical guidelines for getting to know both job seekers and employers, marketing proactively to businesses, matching job seeker characteristics with employer needs, and using the tenets of quality customer service when working with employers
  • consider the possibility of non-traditional employment through customized job consultation
  • discover strategies for improving job retention and promoting career advancement for people with disabilities
  • explore specific ways to make employment service programs more customer-oriented, convenient, and understandable to employers

Filled with helpful case studies and examples, this valuable resource will help employment specialists develop strong, respectful partnerships with businesses—partnerships that will lead to rewarding careers for people with disabilities.

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Richard Marriott

I. Foundations for Partnership

  1. Job Development and Placement: Toward a New Emphasis on Outcomes
  2. The Employment Process: A Conceptual Framework
  3. Setting the Stage: Career Development Strategies
    Jo Ann Hutchinson
  4. Employer Perceptions of Disability and Disability Employment Service Programs
  5. Developing Relationships for Effective Business Partnerships
  6. Partnerships at Work: Illustrative Case Studies
    Richard G. Luecking, J. Erin Riehle, and Mark Donovan
II. Job Development and Placement: A Customer-Focused Partnership
  1. Fundamental Skills for Employment Specialists
  2. Knowing the Job Seeker Customer
  3. Knowing the Employer Customer
  4. Marketing to Prospective Employer Customers
  5. Customer-Driven, Customized Job Matches: Meshing Job Seeker Characteristics with Employer Needs
  6. Quality Service and Customer Satisfaction in Job Development and Business Partnerships
III. New Directions for Employment Partnerships
  1. Nontraditional Employment through Customized Consultation
    Richard G. Luecking and Sara Murphy
  2. Organization Change: Building Business Friendly Services
    Richard G. Luecking and Debra Martin Luecking
  3. Job Retention and Career Growth
  4. Into the Future: Challenges and Issues Affecting Job and Partnership Development

Job Development and Placement

One society is "better" than another if a greater number of its people have access to experiences that are aligned with their goals. —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist and author

The issue of jobs for people with disabilities has become a central focus of disability policy in America. This goal has influenced social policy in part because of the general desire to support opportunity and fairness in our society, as exemplified in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (PL 101-336). An equally compelling reason is the rising cost of disability entitlement programs in America and the desire to promote employment for those individuals with disabilities who want to work. Whatever the reasons for promoting this policy, there is agreement that work is an essential cultural ingredient in America and represents the major path to achieving high quality of life. Although the goodness of work has been an accepted value underlying social policy in postindustrial America, the data on employment and labor force participation of people with disabilities are not consistent with this value. For example, analysis of employment data (Houtenville, 2001a) showed an employment rate of men with disabilities to be only 34%, compared with a 95% rate of employment for men without disabilities. Similarly, women with disabilities had an employment rate of only 29.5%, compared with 80.8% for women without disabilities. The income gap between workers with disabilities and their nondisabled counterparts is also large (Houtenville, 2001b). The average house3 Job Development and Placement Toward a New Emphasis on Outcomes One society is "better" than another if a greater number of its people have access to experiences that are aligned with their goals. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, psychologist and author hold income of men with disabilities was only about $12,000, compared with more than $28,000 for men without disabilities. Despite decades of policy emphasizing the financial and social benefits of employment, having a disability in America remains associated with unemployment and lower wages. This chapter provides an overview of historical barriers to employment for people with disabilities, reviews applicable legislation and social policy that have affected employment of people with disabilities, and introduces a theoretical structure for building networks and developing partnerships with employers that will help generate employment outcomes that are consistent with societal values and policy intent.


Many reasons are offered to explain the persisting poor employment data for individuals with disabilities. Essentially three major barriers to employment participation have been identified in the literature: the disincentives of the Social Security benefits programs, misinformed attitudes toward individuals with disabilities, and lack of access to appropriate rehabilitation and employment search interventions that result in paid employment.

Policy Disincentives

One major barrier frequently mentioned in the literature is the impact of public support programs, particularly those administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) (LaPlante, Kennedy, Kaye, & Wenger, 1996; Noble, 1998). Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) not only provide monthly income support for eligible beneficiaries, but also health insurance coverage through one of the federal programs, Medicaid or Medicare. SSA benefits may operate as employment disincentives, a fact made clear by the numbers. For example, fewer than 1% of SSDI and SSI beneficiaries leave the rolls each year as a result of obtaining paid employment. Of those who do leave, about one third return within 3 years (The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program, 2001). Furthermore, studies by the SSA have pointed to a programmatic correlation between growth of the beneficiary programs and lowered labor force participation rates for individuals with disabilities (Muller, 1992). Smaller studies focusing on the effect of compensation on employment outcomes have found that resistance to seeking competitive employment is greater among individuals who were receiving Social Security benefits (Nichols, 1989) and that the availability of income compensation programs corresponds to withdrawal Working Relationships from the labor force (Drew et al., 2001). However, it is important to note that periodic surveys of beneficiaries with disabilities indicate an expressed desire to work (LaPlante et al., 1996), suggesting that it is not the availability of the compensatory benefits that discourages employment but the fear of losing associated health benefits. The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (PL 106-170), a major revision of social security law, is designed to ease the transition from benefits to employment by providing continuing access to federal health insurance programs. The effect of this law on employment outcomes remains unknown, and its provisions are discussed later in this chapter.

Employer and Societal Attitudes

Another barrier is employer attitudes toward and perceptions about individuals with disabilities. When Congress passed the ADA, it acknowledged that employer attitudes toward individuals with disabilities have historically had a negative impact on employment, stating that the intention of the act was to "eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities" (Section 12101[B][1]). The recognition of discrimination was based on various sources of evidence, including the historically poor performance of employers in providing workplace opportunity to individuals with disabilities and surveys of employer attitudes toward job seekers with disabilities (Unger, 2002a). Employer attitudinal surveys have consistently found that employers report the same stereotypical attitudes and myths about workers with disabilities as did the general population. For example, employers tend to have the most negative attitudes toward job seekers with emotional or mental disabilities (Drehmer, 1985; Johnson, Greenwood, & Schriner, 1988) and express general concern regarding work performance and quality of workers with disabilities (Blanck, 1998; Minskoff, Sautter, Hoffmann, & Hawks, 1987). Although some surveys of employer willingness to hire individuals with disabilities reflect more positive attitudes (Hernandez, 2000; Levy, Jessop, Rimmerman, Francis, & Levy, 1993), negative stereotypes toward some individuals with disabilities persist as barriers to workplace opportunity (Cook & Razzano, 1994; Unger, 2002a). Thus, passage of the ADA with the stated intention of ending discrimination was an important effort in reducing attitudinal barriers. The extent to which the ADA is succeeding in this effort is discussed later in the chapter.

Access to Employment Assistance

The third barrier to labor force participation is the lack of effective employment programs. One source of vocational rehabilitation (VR) for individuals with disabilities in America is the public or federal VR program system. This system, existing in all states and U.S. territories, was founded in 1917 and is the only program designed to provide a variety of VR services to adults with disabilities in order to prepare them to enter or re-enter the workplace (Rubin & Roessler, 1995). The public VR system is distinguished by its ability to offer an array of service options tailored to individual job seeker needs. However, unlike special education services, the public VR system is not an entitlement program, and its funding reflects its limited capacity. For example, in the fiscal year (FY) 1999, about 1.3 million individuals were served nationally in the system. An estimated 60% were identified as successfully rehabilitated, and those cases were closed. This is only a fraction of working-age adults with disabilities who are eligible for VR services (Research Triangle International, 2003). Other public entities, such as state mental health and developmental disability administrations, also fund services for individuals with disabilities, particularly those with the most severe cognitive and emotional impairments. Historically, state funds have been used to support facility-based programs, such as sheltered workshops for people with significant disabilities, including mental illness and mental retardation (Polloway, Smith, Patton, & Smith, 1996). Since the 1990s, supported employment programs began to feature rapid entry into competitive employment and long-term employment supports, and consumers, families, and professionals have come to prefer this service option (Podmostko, 2000). Again, supported employment programs have inadequate public funding, which has limited their availability. For example, Mank, O'Neill, and Jensen's national study (1998) estimated that for every person who received supported employment services, as many as seven or eight people who could have benefited from these services did not receive them. Thus, even when effective employment intervention programs are available, inadequate public funding of these programs has limited the programs' capacity to help those who need and want their services.

Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Working Relationships, by Richard G. Luecking, Ed.D., Ellen S. Fabian, Ph.D., & George P. Tilson, Ed.D., with Mark Donovan, Jo Ann Hutchinson, Debra Martin Luecking, Sara Murphy, and J. Erin Riehle.

Copyright © 2004 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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