Sunday, January 24, 2010

Employment First: Full Throttle Ahead!

To my readers,

I launched this blog back in January of 2005 with a goal to contribute to a national dialogue promoting integrated employment in support of adults with disabilities. I called this blog “A New Vision” and tried to encourage people to see the employment possibilities of men and women with disabilities through a new lens. With the rapid advance of better public policies, well researched support practices, as well as my own professional experiences, I knew so much more could be done to narrow an unemployment gap that I consider to be a national disgrace.
During this time, I offered commentaries, essays, information, and importantly, real stories about people who successfully broke through the “glass ceiling” by obtaining competitive jobs customized to their individual strengths and skills. I talked frequently here about the role of public expectations and importance of work incentives to advance the employability of youth and adults with disabilities. I shared stories making the “business case” for hiring people with disabilities and how businesses who employ individuals with disabilities gain loyal and valuable employees.
I wrote about the personal stories of individuals who have shattered public myths and misconceptions about the employability of men and women with a wide array of disabilities. I tried to educate my readers about efforts being made, particularly in my own State of Minnesota, to change public expectations, promote new policies, encourage organizational change, retool our profession with new skill sets and employment approaches through training and technical assistance, and replace ineffective practices with service strategies documented to produce better employment outcome results.
After 60 consecutive months and 125 posts, I have decided that it is now time to close this blog. Why?
Well, for starters this idea that integrated employment is a “new vision” is no longer true. Proponents of supported employment, and more recently customized employment, have been promoting a new way of thinking about and delivering employment services for more than two decades. Today, we have entered a new era where it seems that everyone is talking about how to expand employment opportunities in the workforce for youth and adults with disabilities. Although the vision is no longer new, what is certainly new is a growing national interest in making something happen on a wider scale. This is welcome news!
In my 35 years of promoting supported and customized employment services, I have never witnessed such a high level of interest in advancing these options particularly in support of individuals with significant disabilities. Emerging interest in employment first and strengths-based practices is now being embraced by a cross section of stakeholders including federal, state, and local governments, secondary and post-secondary education, vocational rehabilitation, welfare and social security, consumer and disability advocacy, business, professional trade associations, and disability provider communities. And what is truly new is the high level of interest in collaborating and working together across the public and private sectors to widen opportunities.
In sum, it's no longer about the vision. Rather it’s about forging ahead with new policies and practices to make integrated employment and increased economic self-dependency a reality for all.
And so I’ve decided the blog not only needs a new brand but a brand new look. For this reason, I’ve been working on the launch of a new Blog. And I’ve entitled this one Employment First: Full Throttle Ahead!
My new blog will also feature articles, commentaries, and stories about the employment first movement and I’ll continue to report on progress my own State of Minnesota is making to double the employment rate of Minnesotans with disabilities by the year 2015. To offer an historical perspective as well as information about the Minnesota's employment first movement, I’ve taken steps to transfer a series of key articles from this blog to the new one. And I intend to continue writing articles and stories with a goal to accelerate the pace of change through rigorous discussion and coordinated action.
During the past five years. I’ve had more than 18,400 readers visit my blog from every state in the United States and 30 countries from around the world. I’ve received hundreds of emails, letters, and phone calls providing me with opportunities to exchange ideas with people I never would have met otherwise. A New Vision has been a labor of love but I’m certainly richer in my understanding about the issues impacting disability and employment because of these connections with people who hold diverse perspectives. I would take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to the many readers who have visited the blog over the years and have shared their views with me.
Finally, if you’re interested in visiting my new blog and bookmarking the site, you can visit at the link provided below.
Best Wishes and Full Throttle Ahead!
Don Lavin

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