What Is Supported Employment?

Supported employment services offer a path to independence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Taking pride in our work and feeling connected to a larger, shared goal is something that drives many of us on a daily basis. This is just as true for people with disabilities, who are often relegated to working in segregated day programs or for menial wages. Supported employment services provide assistance for people with disabilities in earning and retaining competitive jobs in integrated work environments. At Integrity, Inc., this program operates on the principle that everyone has the right to work and build professional relationships. These benefits can have a significant impact on long-term well-being, happiness, and independence.

The History of Supported Employment Programs

The first models for supported employment programs began to take shape in the United States through a string of community integration initiatives started in the 1970s. During this period, advocacy groups began to focus on long-term services and support for people with disabilities, recognizing the importance of gaining independence through an integrated work environment. As supported employment services began to proliferate throughout the 1980s, battles for funding across various programs dominated the landscape. Today, supported employment programs have widened their scope and diversified models of supported employment can be found in communities across the country.

Currently, these programs are growing in Arkansas as graduation rates improve for young adults with disabilities. Supported employment services work first to find jobs for people with disabilities and then continually encourage their professional growth.

What Supported Employment Programs Do

The overarching goal of supported employment is to obtain jobs for people with disabilities and help them retain those jobs through consistent training and coaching. The crucial component of the program is to give the individual the skills and confidence they need to successfully perform their job duties in an integrated and competitive environment, rather than simply doing the job for them.

Following a referral process through Arkansas Rehabilitation Services (ARS), a supported employment program pairs an individual with a job coach, whose initial task is to negotiate with an employer regarding the terms of employment as well as the accommodations that will be provided for the employee. The job coach then transitions to become a hands-on support system, providing on-the-job training for the individual while they learn to navigate their specific job duties and build their role in their workplace.

Eventually, the goal is for the employee to have developed a self-sustaining support system at their place of work, and the day-to-day assistance from their job coach take a backseat. Supported employment services then shift into a long-term support role for the employee with the goal of helping them retain their position and perform their duties effectively.

Supported employment relies on providers who are certified by ARS, and they are also given training on enabling people with disabilities to achieve their best in the workplace. Job coaches are also specially trained in various supported employment principles and tactics, allowing the employer, the coach, and the employee to work together in building a sustainable career.

Supported Employment Services in Little Rock

Integrity, Inc. has been providing services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Little Rock since 1989. By introducing our comprehensive supported employment program called Integrity Works, we are uniquely positioned to expand our support for people with disabilities by building on current programs including home and elder care, foster care, and community-based habilitation services.

If you have questions about qualifying for supported employment services in Little Rock, contact us at 501-406-0442.

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