Dedication, Innovation, and Fluency in the New Age of Employment Services

By Sara Porcaro | Oct 26, 2021
PCSEPP, BHDDH, Employment, Opportunity, IDD, Disabilities, Rhode Island, NDEAM, Empower, Equality
Brittany, Danna, and Deanne

October is coming to an end, and with it ends National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). However, individuals with disabilities continue to be there for their teams, give their all to their careers, and be essential parts of their community year round. As we celebrate the amazing work they're already doing, we're also here to celebrate the steps they're taking to re-imagine what it means to be supported in the workforce to begin with. That's why we're looking to the many individuals, like the ones in the Person Centered Supported Employment Performance Program (PCSEPP), that are hard at work learning how to build their futures, their success, and their customized careers--and to the dedicated employment professionals are right there beside them, taking the same steps to master these many new tools!
Thanks to the technological tools and resources that are always in development, as well as the ever-building momentum behind increasing self advocacy and workplace accommodations, things are changing--and the labor market is changing with it. With Perspectives, AccessPointRI, and the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center's employment professionals collaborating with Skills for Rhode Island's Future, Able Opportunities, Inc., and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston to working together, the PCSEPP program, for this reason, is aiming to address the new landscape of labor. It's a program that innovates and educates, bringing everyday technology like iPads and everyday skills like video making, researching, and more, into an individual's job search. Beyond that, it's also one that helps individuals find their dream careers when their skills, passions, and goals don't line up with generic job descriptions; with a customized employment approach, individuals are able to tailor jobs to their skills rather than try and fit into a job not made for them. But to learn these things, participants need the guidance of those who know these new tools and resources extremely well.
"If we don't know how to use these tools, then we can't teach them effectively to individuals we support," says Career Developer Brittany Dorrance, "and with customized employment being the goal, the way these tools can be used really is different for every single person. It's our job to know how they can be most helpful to certain participants, and it won't always be this much work to figure that out--but for now, we need to really know our tools."
Professionals like Brittany, Peer Navigator Deanne Gagne and SkillsRI's Senior Manager of Supported Employment Danna Spencer, therefore spend a good portion of their time not only working directly with individuals to teach them the necessary skills and supports to reclaim their independence in the workplace, but also with each other to increase their fluency with the increasing arsenal of tools at their disposal. Part of the PCSEPP program has been introducing technology that's easily accessible and already found in everyday living, like tablets and smart phones, as these are the tools that are not only practical, but multifunctional; iPads, specifically, have been a huge part of the program, and with them, apps like Able Opportunities' Work Autonomy app. This app is one that helps individuals be independent on the job by allowing them to build their own supports within the job--setting alarms, productivity targets, and video, photo, and text instructions for the steps of their job, as well as generating productivity reports for their supervisors to see. With the workplace getting more technological, it only makes sense to bring that technology to individuals as a part of their workplace accommodations, too.
"We need to embed the use of technology as accommodation into our systems," says Able Opportunities CEO, Jennifer White. "Through orientation for new hires, intake for individuals, regular training with technology, tracking growth in annual goals, and more, once we're requiring [technology as tools] at a rate similar to the general population, we'll see technology accommodations strengthen work performance."
Of course, it takes time for things to catch on. But our society is already swarmed with modern technology and tools that connect us with each other online, help us maintain our health and fitness, track and manage our finances, and more. For individuals with disabilities, however, access to t technology remains a challenge, as does the funding to teach how to use it--which is what professionals like Brittany, Danna, Deanne, and Jennifer work to change. And it's possible these accommodations might one day become standard practice; just as the bagel slicer was once an accommodation for people with disabilities, only to become an efficient and easy tool to use at places we frequent, like Dunkin' Donuts and other small cafés, so too can these technologies become something that whole teams can make use of, regardless of ability. At the very least, though, these new tools are on track to being extremely helpful resources for individuals with disabilities to optimize their performance at jobs they love.
"I think this could be just another accommodation one day," says Deanne. "The more people learn it, the more it'll become like second nature, and it'll help teams keep innovating for more inclusive workspaces."
Danna agrees, adding, "This technology is something that changes the game: how we craft pitches, what accommodations we can show employers that individuals know how to use if they're given access. We're building the fluency as professionals to teach these accommodations, and to identify who can best benefit from what tool; with that knowledge, everyone benefits."
With professionals like these at the helm, ready to be the bridge that carries us into the future of customized employment--and with dedicated individuals willing to take charge of their own lives and lead the way for others in their community as they learn these new tools--there's no doubt these accommodations will one day be a staple in the way employment services operate. We're all working together to continue improving, innovating, and advocating, and that's work that benefits everyone in a community, from employee to employer. You can find out more about the PCSEPP program, its professionals, and the many participants currently looking to help you grow your business with their unique skills and outlook, by contacting the Perspectives Employment Team at employmentservices@perspectivescorporation.com, or call (401) 294-3990.


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