Special Issue! Employment Across the Board

Special Issue! Employment Across the Board - dedicated to employment for individuals with disabilities. We're committed to helping Individuals with Disabilities & their Families Achieve & Celebrate Events & Milestones in their Lives!

Special Issue! Employment Across the Board - dedicated to employment for individuals with disabilities. We're committed to helping Individuals with Disabilities & their Families Achieve & Celebrate Events & Milestones in their Lives!


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eyond disabilities<br />

Fall <strong>Issue</strong> 2021<br />

special<br />

issue<br />


across <strong>the</strong> board

contents<br />


<strong>Across</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Board</strong><br />

03 Support <strong>Employment</strong> Family Style<br />

05 Transitioning Disabilities into<br />

<strong>the</strong> Workforce<br />

07 Ticket to Work, IRWE and<br />

PASS it on!<br />

09 Entering <strong>the</strong> Workforce What to Say<br />

(or not) about a Disability<br />

11 Supported <strong>Employment</strong><br />

Organization Style<br />

13 Customized <strong>Employment</strong><br />

15 Minding Your Own Business<br />

17 Competitive <strong>Employment</strong><br />

19 Job Roundup Chicago<br />

21 At Your Service<br />

Publisher<br />

Susie Redfern, is <strong>the</strong> parent of a special<br />

needs child who recently “aged out”<br />

of <strong>the</strong> public-school system.<br />

She developed Milestones Magazine<br />

to help individuals with disabilities<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir families achieve and celebrate<br />

events and milestones in <strong>the</strong>ir lives.<br />

info@milestonesmagazine.com<br />

1<br />




Many folks, including people with disabilities, get <strong>the</strong>ir first job in <strong>the</strong> family<br />

business. Some of <strong>the</strong>se individuals stay with, and eventually take over, <strong>the</strong><br />

business. For individuals with disabilities, <strong>the</strong> term “supported employment”<br />

is often used in association with <strong>the</strong>se family work settings.<br />

A publication, “Building Bridges to <strong>the</strong> future” (created through a grant from<br />

<strong>the</strong> Coleman Foundation, and distributed to Illinois families of teens, ages<br />

14-21 enrolled in transition programs at <strong>the</strong>ir school), describes supported<br />

employment this way.<br />

“In this program, organizations seek employment opportunities in <strong>the</strong> local<br />

community for <strong>the</strong> individuals <strong>the</strong>y serve. A job match is conducted to pair <strong>the</strong><br />

right job for <strong>the</strong> right individual. Full and part tie employment opportunities<br />

are developed and <strong>the</strong> individual is provided training and support by a job coach<br />

hired by <strong>the</strong> organization.”<br />

In Illinois, supported employment is available for individuals with significant<br />

disabilities who have an open case at <strong>the</strong> Division of Rehab. Services (DRS) and<br />

referred to a (typically) non-profit organization (every state has its own procedures<br />

on how this is done).<br />

However, not all individuals with disabilities can, or wish to, receive this<br />

assistance. For those folks, “natural supports” are <strong>the</strong> norm, usually supplied<br />

by <strong>the</strong> employer (often a family member) and co-workers (as applicable). This<br />

is especially true when a business has been created by/for <strong>the</strong> individual<br />

(sometimes called a micro-enterprise) based on his/her interests and talents.<br />


On that note, I am pleased to introduce Terri<br />

Jordan, co-author of <strong>the</strong> article “Let’s Get<br />

Cooking”, which appeared in <strong>the</strong> last issue of<br />

Milestones Magazine. Terri’s son assembles The<br />

Color-Coded Chef kits for shipment. I invite her<br />

to write about <strong>the</strong> supports she provides her son<br />

while on <strong>the</strong> job.<br />

I brought my friend’s daughter into work to<br />

move along <strong>the</strong> path from following directions<br />

to giving directions. My son had to tell and<br />

show her <strong>the</strong> steps needed to clean <strong>the</strong> room,<br />

assemble <strong>the</strong> kits and restock merchandise<br />

without help from an adult. We are now<br />

adjusting <strong>the</strong> job from following instructions to<br />

learning communication skills rounding out <strong>the</strong><br />

“A couple of years ago, when my son and I<br />

started this process, <strong>the</strong> first task was determining<br />

<strong>the</strong> best method of communication to do <strong>the</strong><br />

individual. While <strong>the</strong> tasks may be repetitious,<br />

we are developing <strong>the</strong> thought processes in <strong>the</strong><br />

individual by expressing <strong>the</strong> work in a new way.<br />

job. Verbal prompts work to a point, but <strong>the</strong>y<br />

also teach <strong>the</strong> employee to wait for a prompt<br />

before moving to <strong>the</strong> next task. To help my<br />

son be a bit more independent, I chose visual<br />

communication. I created a task sheet with<br />

simple pictures to provide <strong>the</strong> steps needed to<br />

complete <strong>the</strong> assembly of <strong>the</strong> kit. However, in a<br />

The next stage in developing job skills will<br />

empower <strong>the</strong> individual to recognize obstacles<br />

and encourage <strong>the</strong>m to improve <strong>the</strong> job position.<br />

One step at a time, taking <strong>the</strong> challenges<br />

of work and making <strong>the</strong>m opportunities in work<br />

will be <strong>the</strong> cornerstone of success.”<br />

job setting, a person does not just come in and<br />

do this one task and leave. Additional sheets<br />

are used to provide <strong>the</strong> steps needed to<br />

complete before and after <strong>the</strong> kit assembly,<br />

Terri Jordan can be reached by phone at<br />

636-422-1515, on Facebook, www.facebook.<br />

com/<strong>the</strong>colorcodedchef, or through her<br />

like wiping down <strong>the</strong> tables and disposal of <strong>the</strong><br />

wipes into <strong>the</strong> proper receptacle, restocking<br />

<strong>the</strong> merchandise on <strong>the</strong> shelves for <strong>the</strong> next day<br />

of <strong>the</strong> assembly.<br />

website, www.TheColorCodedChef.com<br />

M<br />

“<br />

I created a task sheet<br />

with simple pictures<br />

to provide <strong>the</strong> steps needed<br />

to complete <strong>the</strong> assembly<br />

of <strong>the</strong> kit.<br />


TRANSITIONINGTeens with<br />

Disabilities into <strong>the</strong> Workforce<br />

My one heartache as a special education teacher is when I find<br />

Lead-In to <strong>Employment</strong>:<br />

High School Transition<br />

out that my students that have graduated are home; not working<br />

or in a program. My goal for <strong>the</strong>m is dignity and quality of life.<br />

For most students in a public-school setting, even with severe<br />

disabilities, <strong>the</strong>re is something for <strong>the</strong>m after graduation. In<br />

Preparing for adult life is a process that, in some ways,<br />

can start as young as infancy. But <strong>the</strong> largest portion of<br />

this process usually occurs during a child’s teens and<br />

young adult years, when <strong>the</strong>y often get <strong>the</strong>ir first job,<br />

stretch <strong>the</strong>ir legs, so to speak, with extracurricular<br />

activities, and prepare for college or o<strong>the</strong>r post-secondary<br />

experiences. For students with disabilities, <strong>the</strong>ir high<br />

<strong>the</strong> case of my students, it does take more planning than <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

neurotypical peers.<br />

I teach a self-contained special education class of students with<br />

severe disabilities. They all have an Intellectual Disability and<br />

most are comorbid with Autism, ADHD, Speech and Language<br />

Impairments, and Orthopedic Impairments. Their IQs are all<br />

60 and below.<br />

school experience may include extra supports, which<br />

can extend beyond <strong>the</strong> traditional graduation at age 18.<br />

I am pleased to introduce Linda Gilmartin, a special<br />

education teacher from New York, to give a glimpse<br />

into her high school transition classroom.<br />

Our classroom is a fun, family type setting where academics and<br />

social skills are learned. These students are treated as I would<br />

treat my own children. They have responsibilities and are<br />

expected to act appropriately. My vision for <strong>the</strong>m when I get<br />

<strong>the</strong>m in 9th grade, is how can I prepare this student for <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

particular future? It is different for each student.<br />


I ensure that <strong>the</strong>y reach <strong>the</strong>ir individual potential academically<br />

to give <strong>the</strong>m quality of life. They are expected to do most things<br />

<strong>the</strong>mselves and learned helplessness is not an option. The only<br />

way to fully achieve this is when <strong>the</strong> parents are totally on board.<br />

When that happens, magic happens. Then <strong>the</strong> student knows<br />

this is real life, not just school life, and it becomes second nature<br />

for <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

I have a book on Amazon entitled, “Transitioning <strong>Special</strong> Needs<br />

Teenagers”, which goes more into detail about everything I have<br />

outlined above, including some real-life stories. In addition, I<br />

have a Facebook group, entitled, “Transitioning Teens/Adults<br />

with Disabilities Life After High School”. It currently has almost<br />

3k members and I research valuable resources and post <strong>the</strong>m,<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r people do <strong>the</strong> same and it gives parents a chance to see<br />

what is out <strong>the</strong>re. I started that group when I realized it is not<br />

We also have a school to work study program. When <strong>the</strong><br />

students turn 16, <strong>the</strong>y can participate in this program. They go<br />

out 2 days per week for 2 hours at different job sites throughout<br />

<strong>the</strong> year. When <strong>the</strong>y are seniors, <strong>the</strong>y go out for 4 days. This is<br />

every special education teacher’s job to do <strong>the</strong> transitioning<br />

preparation that I do. It is my vision that <strong>the</strong> Facebook group is<br />

doing that. I archive those resources on my website,<br />

www.transitioningspecialneedsteenagers.com.<br />

to help <strong>the</strong> individuals experience <strong>the</strong> work force and <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

options for post-graduation. For some students <strong>the</strong>y can be<br />

enrolled in <strong>the</strong> <strong>Employment</strong> Training Program and be paid by<br />

It truly is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this process for<br />

<strong>the</strong>se wonderful teens.<br />

<strong>the</strong> state for 2 years in <strong>the</strong> hopes that <strong>the</strong> student will prove<br />

<strong>the</strong>mselves worthy to be hired outright by <strong>the</strong> employer.<br />

Linda Gilmartin<br />

The o<strong>the</strong>r part of this is <strong>the</strong> application process for state<br />

services. This begins in 9th grade we fill out <strong>the</strong> application<br />

for OPWDD which is <strong>the</strong> state service for New York. I ga<strong>the</strong>r<br />

TRANSITIONINGTeens with<br />

<strong>Special</strong> Needs Teenagers<br />

<strong>the</strong> necessary documents to attach and it gets sent to <strong>the</strong> state<br />

for review. Then it is something that needs to be checked up on<br />

constantly to be sure <strong>the</strong>y are not lost in <strong>the</strong> system. It can take<br />

a good 2 years before a student is qualified. Then <strong>the</strong>y receive a<br />

Care Manager. This Care Manager will have <strong>the</strong>ir finger on all<br />

<strong>the</strong> state services that <strong>the</strong> student can utilize to be productive<br />

after high school.<br />

Editor’s Note: In Illinois, transition programs for qualifying<br />

students end at age 22 (or, with recent legislation, <strong>the</strong> end of <strong>the</strong><br />

school year in which a child turns 22). Vocational services are<br />

available for those deemed eligible with <strong>the</strong> Division of<br />

Rehab. Services (DRS), who contracts <strong>the</strong>ir case out to, typically,<br />

a non-profit agency that serves adults with disabilities. Ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

side of this coin is Home-Based Services, a Medicaid-waiver<br />

program, which helps families find and pay for community<br />

My job is all about collaboration with parents, Care Managers,<br />

and Job Coaches. When we are all on <strong>the</strong> same page. I know that<br />

students will be busy 5 days a week after high school. Even if it<br />

is one or two-days part time, with <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs in a program or<br />

activities, vocational training/employment, housing options,<br />

and so on, according to each family’s circumstances and needs.<br />

These supports sometimes come right when a teen has “aged<br />

out” of <strong>the</strong> school system, making for a seamless transition,<br />

volunteer work, <strong>the</strong>y are productive members of a community.<br />

but more often than not, <strong>the</strong>re is a years-long gap.<br />

M<br />


Ticket to Work,<br />

IRWE<br />

and<br />

PASS<br />

it on!<br />

Finding/keeping a job, especially <strong>the</strong> first<br />

job, can be a struggle for anyone. That old<br />

“Catch-22”, “you can’t get experience without<br />

a job; you can’t get a job without experience”<br />

can be an obstacle for anyone. This can be<br />

especially true for people with disabilities.<br />

In addition to <strong>the</strong> usual obstacles to<br />

employment, some folks with disabilities<br />

are concerned about losing government<br />

benefits, in particular with Medicaidwaiver<br />

programs and/or Supplemental<br />

Security Income (SSI) if <strong>the</strong>ir assets (income<br />

not spent in any given month) goes over <strong>the</strong><br />

typical $2000 limit.<br />


There are a number of strategies to deal with this<br />

obstacle. I am outlining a couple here, courtesy of<br />

Autism Speaks.<br />

“Ticket to Work (TTW)<br />

The TTW Program is an innovative program that<br />

can connect you with free employment services to<br />

help you decide if working is right for you, prepare<br />

for work, find a job or maintain success while you<br />

are working. It is a free and voluntary service. If you<br />

choose to participate, you will receive services such<br />

as career counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and<br />

job placement and training from authorized Ticket<br />

to Work service providers.<br />

Impairment-Related Work Expenses (IRWE)<br />

Social Security can deduct <strong>the</strong> cost of certain items,<br />

such as transportation services, medical devices, etc.,<br />

that are directly related to your disability and you must<br />

have to work. This means that when Social Security<br />

measures your income compared to <strong>the</strong> benefit limit,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y will subtract <strong>the</strong> cost of <strong>the</strong>se expenses.<br />

Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)<br />

A PASS allows you to set-aside expenses related<br />

to achieving a work goal. These expenses may<br />

include start-up funding for a business, a<br />

vocational assessment, training, etc. Social Security<br />

does not count <strong>the</strong> income you set aside when <strong>the</strong>y<br />

calculate your SSI payment amount or eligibility<br />

for SSI. For example, a PASS Must be specific to<br />

achieve a detailed work.”<br />

Thanks to Autism Speaks for this information. You can<br />

access <strong>the</strong> complete article, and fur<strong>the</strong>r information<br />

at this link: www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/<br />

adult-services/autism-and-employment/benefits. M<br />



What to say (or not) about a Disability<br />

For teens or adults who have a condition or disability<br />

that is not obvious to a potential employer, <strong>the</strong> issue of<br />

whe<strong>the</strong>r to disclose it can be paramount. An employer is<br />

not legally permitted to ask, but also is not obligated to<br />

offer any accommodations for a condition he/she<br />

doesn’t know about.<br />

To address this complicated question, I am pleased to<br />

introduce Jim Hasse, ABC, GCDF, owner of Hasse<br />

Communication Counseling, LLC, who, as a person<br />

with cerebral palsy, served for 10 years as a vice<br />

president in a Fortune 500 company during his<br />

29-year career in corporate communication. He’s an<br />

Accredited Business Communicator, certified as a<br />

Global Career Development Facilitator and author<br />

of 14 Amazon books about disability awareness<br />

and disability employment issues.<br />

This is an abbreviated version of his article, which<br />

appeared in an earlier issue of Milestones Magazine.<br />


“When to disclose disability (on a job application, on a resume,<br />

before a job interview etc.) is a key issue you need to discuss with<br />

<strong>the</strong> job applicant.<br />

Strategy 2: Disclosing your disability as soon as possible<br />

Include a “Personal Statement,” a few paragraphs in length on a<br />

separate sheet or document, with your resume. In this statement,<br />

briefly describe your condition and explain what adaptive<br />

As a career development facilitator, I tell my clients this:<br />

strategies you use to get your work done.<br />

“When to tell prospective employers about your disability<br />

depends on your disability, your job opportunity, your<br />

personality and your prospective employer.”<br />

Strategy 3: Positioning your disability as a competitive edge<br />

Instead of selecting an option for when to reveal your condition<br />

to a prospective employer (as though your disability always has<br />

In o<strong>the</strong>r words, this disability disclosure issue goes far beyond<br />

<strong>the</strong> job application. And <strong>the</strong>re are no easy answers. Yet, every job<br />

seeker with a disability eventually needs to personally come up<br />

to be a negative factor), turn <strong>the</strong> table 180 degrees. Position<br />

your disability experience as your competitive edge and target<br />

employers who claim to be disability friendly.<br />

with a strategy for addressing this matter.<br />

Those are <strong>the</strong> options I believe your high school student with<br />

Remember, under <strong>the</strong> Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),<br />

your child is not required to disclose his or her condition to an<br />

employer, even though it may just be a mom or pop candy store<br />

down <strong>the</strong> street. And, if and when your child does disclose, he or<br />

condition faces as he or she struggles with this sometimes-tough<br />

disability disclosure issue that crops up as soon as his or her first<br />

job application needs to be completed. Which to choose boils<br />

down to personal preference and personal situation.<br />

she is not required to tell everything about <strong>the</strong> personal aspects<br />

of his/her condition. In o<strong>the</strong>r words, once your child discloses<br />

But, here’s ano<strong>the</strong>r wrinkle to this issue.<br />

<strong>the</strong> condition. a potential employer can only ask for limited<br />

information about that disability.<br />

On March 24, 2014, new rules for Section 503 of <strong>the</strong><br />

Rehabilitation Act took effect, covering employers who are<br />

Upon request, information about disability can be confidential.<br />

federal contractors or subcontractors.<br />

Your child’s co-workers do not need to know about his or her<br />

condition or <strong>the</strong> need for accommodations.<br />

The new rules require federal contractors and subcontractors<br />

to aspire to, and track progress toward, employing individuals<br />

With those guidelines in mind, consider <strong>the</strong>se three potential<br />

with disabilities.<br />

disclosure strategies, which are largely mutually exclusive. Each<br />

option largely stands on its own, has important advantages as<br />

well as disadvantages and should be applied only after careful<br />

examination of your particular situation and of <strong>the</strong> potential<br />

employment situation.<br />

Called an aspirational goal, covered employers must now<br />

attain, or show progress toward attaining, a workforce that<br />

consists of at least seven percent of people with disabilities.<br />

That new ruling may affect which disclosure strategy your<br />

child eventually chooses.<br />

Strategy 1: Getting your foot in <strong>the</strong> door first<br />

Don’t reveal your condition on your job application, resume or<br />

cover letter (even if you have gaps in your work experience due to<br />

your condition) because it will potentially trigger preconceived,<br />

inaccurate notions about disability among <strong>the</strong> people screening<br />

So, choosing a course of action with personal capabilities, job,<br />

employer and competitors in mind -- and following through with<br />

that strategy -- is even more essential to getting hired in today’s<br />

part-time job market (and tomorrow’s mainstream workplace).<br />

resumes for <strong>the</strong> open position.<br />

Editor’s note: Although this article is addressed to parents of high school students,<br />

<strong>the</strong> same principles apply to individuals with disabilities of any age. M<br />


Planning<br />

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<strong>Special</strong> Needs?<br />

Learn about <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Special</strong> Needs Trust<br />

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with Diedre Braverman,<br />

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Planning Attorney.<br />

melanie@braverman-law.com<br />

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Supported<br />

<strong>Employment</strong>,<br />

Organization<br />

Finding/keeping a job, especially <strong>the</strong><br />

first job, can be a struggle for anyone.<br />

That old “Catch-22”, “you can’t get<br />

experience without a job; you can’t<br />

get a job without experience” can<br />

be an obstacle for anyone. This can<br />

be especially true for people with<br />

disabilities.<br />

Style<br />

There are several terms bandied<br />

around in discussions of resources/<br />

services available to help people with<br />

challenges prepare for, find, and keep<br />

a job or career. One of <strong>the</strong>se terms is<br />

supported employment.<br />


I am pleased to reference <strong>the</strong> website of Clearbrook,<br />

one of many agencies in <strong>the</strong> Chicago area (and across<br />

<strong>the</strong> country), who provide supported employment<br />

services, to explain what supported employment is,<br />

Job Coach<br />

and what supports and techniques <strong>the</strong>y use to help<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir clients prepare for, find, and keep a job that<br />

meets supported employment standards.<br />

The length of time for which individuals are<br />

supported, and <strong>the</strong> number of hours for which<br />

Clearbrook’s Supported <strong>Employment</strong> Program helps<br />

place individuals (age 18 or above) in a variety of<br />

supervised work settings within <strong>the</strong> community.<br />

Initially trained and supervised by a job coach, clients<br />

receive <strong>the</strong> on-site training and support needed to<br />

individuals are supported, depend on individual needs.<br />

The goal is to phase out support so <strong>the</strong> individuals<br />

can do <strong>the</strong>ir jobs independently and successfully.<br />

Individuals receive at least minimum wage, and<br />

transportation is provided by Clearbrook if needed.<br />

be successful at <strong>the</strong>ir job.<br />

For more info, please contact Ilene Rosenberg<br />

The first step in <strong>the</strong> process is for individuals to meet<br />

with a Job Developer, to find out about <strong>the</strong> clients’<br />

by phone at 847-385-5395 or email at<br />

irosenberg@clearbrook.org<br />

interests and abilities. The Job Developer <strong>the</strong>n works<br />

closely with <strong>the</strong> individuals to identify and match <strong>the</strong>m<br />

with local openings, and helps clients through <strong>the</strong><br />

application and interview process. A Community<br />

<strong>Employment</strong> Supervisor participates in, and oversees,<br />

<strong>the</strong> proceedings. Job Coaches provide training and<br />

Editor’s note: In Illinois, agencies (such as Clearbrook)<br />

that provide free employment services typically<br />

contract with <strong>the</strong> Illinois Division of Rehab Services<br />

(DRS) to serve people who have an open case<br />

with DRS. M<br />

coaching for individuals on <strong>the</strong> job.<br />


Customized<br />


Finding/keeping a job, especially <strong>the</strong> first job, is not<br />

always easy. That old “Catch-22”, “you can’t get<br />

experience without a job; you can’t get a job without<br />

experience” can stymie your efforts. For people with<br />

disabilities, that can be<br />

especially true. Some folks<br />

in this situation (and <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

families/supporters) may try<br />

to get around this by creating<br />

(or carving out) a job.<br />

That’s where “Customized<br />

<strong>Employment</strong>” might<br />

come in.<br />

Customized <strong>Employment</strong> is<br />

one strategy to help people<br />

with challenges prepare for,<br />

find, and keep a job or<br />

career. In <strong>the</strong> world of<br />

Customized <strong>Employment</strong>,<br />

<strong>the</strong> first name that comes up<br />

is Griffin-Hammis<br />

Associates. I am pleased to<br />

reference <strong>the</strong>ir website to explain what customized<br />

employment is, and what supports and techniques <strong>the</strong>y<br />

use to help <strong>the</strong>ir clients prepare for, find, and keep a job<br />

that meets customized employment standards.<br />

Griffin-Hammis Associates is a consulting firm that<br />

partners with government agencies, employment<br />

providers, and business leaders. They offer Discovering<br />

Personal Genius. training to organizations, who <strong>the</strong>n<br />

use <strong>the</strong> customized employment approach in <strong>the</strong>ir own<br />

work with individuals and families. They also mentor<br />

those agencies.<br />


Once jobs are created, Griffin-Hammis also supports <strong>the</strong><br />

employment specialists in building company cultures<br />

that are inclusive to employees with challenges.<br />

In 2012, TotalLink was <strong>the</strong> recipient of a grant from<br />

<strong>the</strong> Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities in<br />

partnership with <strong>the</strong> Nor<strong>the</strong>rn Suburban <strong>Special</strong><br />

Education District (NSSED) and Griffin-Hammis<br />

So, cutting to <strong>the</strong> chase, just what, exactly, is<br />

Discovering Personal Genius.. Based on information<br />

on <strong>the</strong> Griffin-Hammis website, it is a process that starts<br />

with meeting people in <strong>the</strong>ir homes to understand what<br />

<strong>the</strong>y’re all about: <strong>the</strong>ir skills, interests, and supportive<br />

relationships. From <strong>the</strong>re, opportunities are identified to<br />

create or individualize jobs in ways that help both <strong>the</strong><br />

individual and employer. Once a job match is made,<br />

Associates (GHA). The Everyone Works! Initiative<br />

utilized best practice strategies of Customized<br />

<strong>Employment</strong> to develop competitive and integrated<br />

employment for students and young adults with<br />

intellectual and developmental disabilities within<br />

<strong>the</strong> NSSED catchment area. Since that first grant,<br />

TotalLink has helped place over 150 job seekers in<br />

jobs in <strong>the</strong> community.<br />

GHA mentors <strong>the</strong> employment specialist to provide<br />

training and coaching on <strong>the</strong> job site as well as<br />

long-term career development tools.<br />

TotalLink2 Community believes that community<br />

workplaces can and should reflect <strong>the</strong> makeup of <strong>the</strong><br />

people who live in our communities. People with<br />

GHA has additional resource materials (links below)<br />

available on <strong>the</strong> topic of Customized <strong>Employment</strong>. They<br />

can be contacted by phone at 470-223-3936 or by email<br />

at info@griffinhammis.com. They are on Facebook:<br />

www.facebook.com/griffinhammis<br />

developmental disabilities need and want to work.<br />

They want to be paid real wages and feel valued as<br />

employees. The TotalLink2 Community vision of<br />

inclusive employment means that every person with<br />

a disability who wants to work is employed.<br />

Here are some PDF links.<br />

For more information about TotalLink2 Community and<br />

its services, please visit <strong>the</strong>ir website at www.totallink2.<br />

• Bringing Fidelity to Customized <strong>Employment</strong> Processes<br />

org or contact <strong>the</strong>m at info@totallink2.org.<br />

• Customized Not Customized<br />

• Developing Vocational Themes Workbook v2<br />

• Rural Routes to <strong>Employment</strong> Manual<br />

• What’s Customized About it<br />

Editor’s Note: I am also pleased to share this<br />

announcement and resource, from <strong>the</strong> website of<br />

Connect to Community, ano<strong>the</strong>r agency involved in<br />

customized employment initiatives.<br />

There have been folks, in <strong>the</strong> Chicago area, and across<br />

<strong>the</strong> country, who have taken <strong>the</strong> customized employment<br />

ball and run with it. One such organization is TotalLink2<br />

Community. Here’s <strong>the</strong>ir story:<br />

“Thanks to community funding from Palatine Township<br />

and support from <strong>the</strong> Hoffman Estates Commission for<br />

People with Disabilities, CTC is happy to be able to share<br />

video recordings of our Friday Forum and Transition<br />

TotalLink2 Community is a Northbrook, Illinois-based<br />

non-profit focused on ensuring young adults with<br />

intellectual or developmental (I/DD) disabilities can<br />

thrive by working, socializing, and contributing to <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

Summit seminars in <strong>the</strong> hopes that those who are unable<br />

to attend, can still access <strong>the</strong> information at <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

convenience. For more information about CTC seminars<br />

and events, visit https://ConnectToCommunityInc.org” M<br />

communities – and making <strong>the</strong>ir workplaces and<br />

communities better for it. TotalLink was founded in 2008<br />

by six strong moms with a shared vision. They realized<br />

that <strong>the</strong>ir children with disabilities would need <strong>the</strong> best<br />

services and support in order to realize <strong>the</strong>ir hopes<br />

and dreams.<br />



your own business<br />

Some folks, with or without disabilities, look<br />

to “hang out a shingle”, so to speak, and create<br />

a business of <strong>the</strong>ir own, using <strong>the</strong>ir own talents<br />

and interests. These can be in “white collar”<br />

professions (such as doctor, lawyer, accountant),<br />

“blue collar” trades (electrician, plumber,<br />

advice did not come with any practical suggestions<br />

for starting a micro-enterprise and making it into a<br />

profitable, enjoyable, and fulfilling venture for all<br />

involved. So, like <strong>the</strong> Little Red Hen, I will do that<br />

myself (but don’t expect a loaf of bread at <strong>the</strong> end of<br />

this article!).<br />

carpenter), creative/performing arts (artist,<br />

writer, photographer, musician), and a host<br />

of o<strong>the</strong>r possibilities.<br />

The conception and birth of a micro-enterprise<br />

can start with four one-word questions: who, what,<br />

where, and how (not necessarily in that order).<br />

Whatever direction you go, for an aspiring<br />

entrepreneur (with or without disabilities),<br />

you need more than a wing and a prayer. The<br />

following article, written several years ago by<br />

Milestones Magazine publisher Susie Redfern,<br />

provides some tips and resources.<br />

WHAT?<br />

What do I plan to do or make, produce, distribute,<br />

and sell? Some people base a business on a talent or<br />

skill for which <strong>the</strong>y have an interest, maybe even a<br />

passion, such as painting. O<strong>the</strong>rs design or invent a<br />

product that solves a problem affecting <strong>the</strong>m or<br />

The Birth, Care, Feeding, and<br />

Maintenance of a Micro-enterprise<br />

Entrepreneurship (as in owning/operating a<br />

business) is a milestone/goal to which some aspire,<br />

and one to which some people with disabilities<br />

regard as preferable. Its potential for income<br />

coming from something you like to do and are<br />

good at without having to be hired and fit into an<br />

established workplace can be attractive.<br />

a family member; such as an easy-fastening<br />

mechanism for people who have arthritis. Still<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs base a business on a service that businesses<br />

and individuals need: lawns have to be cut, papers<br />

shredded, attics cleaned, and so on. And some<br />

people and businesses don’t have <strong>the</strong> time, ability,<br />

or desire to do <strong>the</strong>se things <strong>the</strong>mselves, so <strong>the</strong>y’re<br />

willing to “outsource” <strong>the</strong>m (which is where you<br />

come in).<br />

As <strong>the</strong> parent of a child with a disability, this option,<br />

suggested for my son from school district transition<br />

personnel, basically amounts to “go forth and<br />

micro-enterprise”. Though I know it’s probably<br />

grammatically (though perhaps not politically)<br />

incorrect to use micro-enterprise as a verb, this may<br />

not be such bad advice, especially for <strong>the</strong> more<br />

WHO?<br />

To whom do you plan to sell your product/service.<br />

Some, by <strong>the</strong>ir very nature, are local, so potential<br />

customers or clients are folks in your neck of <strong>the</strong><br />

woods. Lawns cannot be exported to China. O<strong>the</strong>rs,<br />

with <strong>the</strong> help of computers and <strong>the</strong> internet, can be<br />

regional, national, or even global in scope.<br />

entrepreneurially minded among us. However, <strong>the</strong><br />


WHERE?<br />

Where will <strong>the</strong> product be displayed or sold?<br />

Artistic work typically shows up at art galleries,<br />

“flea market” type events and websites such as<br />

Etsy. Writers can blog. Clothing products can be<br />

sold at retail stores (usually distributed through<br />

a wholesaler).<br />

Life’s Plan Inc. Pooled Trust Services,<br />

www.lifesplaninc.org<br />

Life’s Plan Inc. Pooled Trust Services periodically<br />

offers Micro-industry grants of up to $2,000 for<br />

adults with disabilities or mental illness who meet<br />

Social Security’s disability eligibility criteria under<br />

Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income<br />

program. This is a one-time award for individuals<br />

HOW?<br />

How will <strong>the</strong> product be displayed or sold? This<br />

question is similar to <strong>the</strong> where question, and can<br />

often produce <strong>the</strong> same answer.<br />

or partnerships (less than 4 people). Details about<br />

proposal requirements can be found at Life’s Plan’s<br />

website and questions/inquiries can be emailed to<br />

Scott Nixon at lifesplangrants@raygraham.org.<br />

As you may have realized by now, answers to <strong>the</strong>se 4<br />

questions often overlap, and collectively can provide<br />

<strong>the</strong> underpinnings of a business plan. A business<br />

plan, whe<strong>the</strong>r informal or professionally done, helps<br />

you focus on <strong>the</strong> essentials of your business. It is<br />

required if you will approach a traditional loan<br />

source, such as a bank, for financing. And it may<br />

be necessary for types of creative financing, such as<br />

venture capital, whe<strong>the</strong>r from an established fund or<br />

through crowd-funding.<br />

Local (Chicago Area) Micro-Enterprise<br />

The Perk Center Cafe is a not-for-profit business<br />

enterprise created through Great Potentials, Inc.<br />

and by four parents and one sibling of an individual<br />

with intellectual/developmental disabilities. It is a<br />

collaboration with <strong>the</strong> Glenview Park District, who<br />

donates <strong>the</strong> space for <strong>the</strong> Cafe. The Perk Center<br />

Cafe’s goals are four-fold: to provide employment,<br />

volunteer, and vocational training opportunities to<br />

individuals with developmental disabilities; to offer<br />

good quality food to customers; to build positive<br />

The following resources are both based in <strong>the</strong><br />

Chicago area. Life’s Plan Inc. Pooled Trust Services<br />

can help with financing for individuals who meet<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir criteria. Perk Center Café can serve as an<br />

example or inspiration for folks looking to start<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir own micro-enterprise.<br />

relationships in <strong>the</strong> community; and to serve as<br />

model to o<strong>the</strong>rs who might wish to create businesses<br />

for <strong>the</strong> purpose of employment of people with<br />

disabilities. Feel free to visit <strong>the</strong> website:<br />

perkcentercafe.org or contact Gail Metrick at<br />

gmetrick@comcast.net. M<br />


Competitive<br />

<strong>Employment</strong><br />

training<br />

Finding/keeping a job, especially <strong>the</strong> first<br />

job, can be difficult, even in <strong>the</strong> current job<br />

market, where many more jobs are <strong>the</strong>re<br />

just for <strong>the</strong> asking. That old “Catch-22”,<br />

support<br />

“you can’t get experience without a job;<br />

you can’t get a job without experience”<br />

can still hold true, especially for some<br />

people with disabilities.<br />

advice<br />

There are several terms bandied around<br />

in discussions of resources/services<br />

available to help people with challenges<br />

coaching<br />

prepare for, find, and keep a job or career.<br />

One of <strong>the</strong>se terms is competitive<br />

employment. I am pleased to reference<br />

<strong>the</strong> website of Aspire for information about<br />

motivation<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Career<br />

Academy, which helps clients prepare for<br />

and launch a career focused on jobs that<br />

meet competitive employment standards.<br />

direction<br />

Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Career<br />

Academy is set up for adults with<br />

disabilities to discover and pursue<br />

goals<br />

rewarding jobs. Curriculum includes<br />

exploring career interests and strengths;<br />

learning <strong>the</strong> specific skills needed for jobs<br />

<strong>the</strong>y’re interested in; and finding a good<br />

success<br />

employment fit that allows <strong>the</strong>ir careers to<br />

take off. Training and coaching are at each<br />

individual’s pace.<br />


The Academy is an innovative solution that helps enhance job<br />

readiness for persons with disabilities as well as provide training<br />

and consultation with companies to bolster <strong>the</strong>ir diversity, equity<br />

and inclusion initiatives. By working with job-seekers and<br />

forward and pursue meaningful employment<br />

safely during <strong>the</strong> current pandemic<br />

and completely eliminates physical access<br />

as a barrier.<br />

employers, Aspire works to create sustainable employment<br />

opportunities in communities across Chicagoland.<br />

For more information about Aspire’s<br />

Competitive <strong>Employment</strong> programs and<br />

Industries in <strong>the</strong> scope of <strong>the</strong> Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Career<br />

Academy include (but are not limited to) Food Service, Hotel and<br />

Hospitality, Healthcare, Health Clubs, Information Technology,<br />

Office Management, and Retail Warehouse.<br />

services, please contact Herbert Washington,<br />

Chief Innovation Officer at Aspire, by<br />

email at hwashington@aspirechicago.com.<br />

Herb is in charge of Aspire CoffeeWorks,<br />

Community <strong>Employment</strong>, Inclusion<br />

Aspire has a Virtual Training Academy that can serve clients age<br />

Consulting, Life on My Own, and<br />

16 and older through Zoom. Individuals with learning disabilities,<br />

autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or o<strong>the</strong>r disabilities are<br />

eligible. This virtual option allows individuals to push <strong>the</strong>ir skills<br />

MarketPointe Enterprises.<br />

M<br />


Job<br />

Roundup Chicago<br />

Milestones Magazine is pleased<br />

to provide a sample of companies<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Chicago area whose<br />

workforce consists, in whole or<br />

part, of people with disabilities.<br />

Please contact each company<br />

directly with any specific,<br />

individual questions you have<br />

about hiring practices, work<br />

accommodations, or any<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r concerns.<br />

Aspiritech<br />

Trains and employs adults with autism to do QA,<br />

software and hardware testing (90% of workforce is<br />

neurodivergent and on <strong>the</strong> autism spectrum). Statistics<br />

from <strong>the</strong> “Autism in <strong>the</strong> Workplace” article, courtesy of<br />

Aspiritch employee Matt Hemauer, which was published<br />

in an earlier issue of Milestones Magazine.<br />

The Bazaar, Inc.<br />

The Bazaar, Inc. specializes in branded wholesale closeouts.<br />

Long-term goals involve hiring 50% of <strong>the</strong> workforce with people<br />

with diverse backgrounds, including those with disabilities. Currently<br />

30% of <strong>the</strong> company’s workforce comes from diverse backgrounds.<br />

(Information for this synopsis comes from <strong>the</strong> company website and<br />

a collaborative article published in <strong>the</strong> Spring 2021 issue of<br />

Milestones Magazine).<br />

About Aspiritech<br />

Locations:<br />

Aspiritech, Chicago, 550 W Van Buren, Ste 330,<br />

Chicago IL 60607, 312-546-0750;<br />

About The Bazaar Inc.<br />

Location:<br />

1900 5th Ave, River Grove IL 60171, 267-265-8172<br />

Aspiritech, NFP: 1893 Sheridan Rd, Ste 103,<br />

Highland Park IL 60035, 312-945-8378.<br />

Leadership:<br />

Bradley Nardick, CEO;<br />

Garret Rosiek, Director of Employee Experience and Engagement,<br />

Leadership:<br />

grosiek@<strong>the</strong>bazaarinc.com<br />

Brenda & Moshe Weitzberg, Co-Founders;<br />

Reanin Stone, <strong>Employment</strong> Support <strong>Special</strong>ist<br />

Team Manager.<br />

www.<strong>the</strong>bazaarinc.com<br />

www.facebook.com/pages/BazaarInc/154102514640179<br />

www.aspiritech.org<br />

www.facebook.com/aspiritech<br />


job Roundup Chicago<br />

Aspire Chicago: Social Enterprises -<br />

Aspire CoffeeWorks<br />

Coffee is roasted by Metropolis Coffee Company and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

labeled, scooped and packaged by a team of adults of all<br />

Dave Friedman, fa<strong>the</strong>r of a <strong>the</strong>n-student at LADSE (a special<br />

education coop) in 2012, AutonomyWorks was created to<br />

use <strong>the</strong> unique skills and talents of people with autism in<br />

<strong>the</strong> workplace.<br />

disabilities. All net proceeds support Aspire’s services.<br />

Visit <strong>the</strong>ir website for details or to make a purchase.<br />

AutonomyWorks<br />

from <strong>the</strong> website of AutonomyWorks (paraphrase)<br />

Aspire Art360<br />

A professional studio, providing possibilities for people with<br />

AutonomyWorks takes over <strong>the</strong> process of design, staffing, and<br />

management of repetitive operational tasks for client companies.<br />

disabilities to become professional artists. The studio offers its<br />

artists <strong>the</strong> chance to build a career in <strong>the</strong> arts by selling <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

artwork, while serving as a platform for disability awareness<br />

and inclusion in communities.<br />

Contact info:<br />

contactus@emailautonomy.com<br />

www.facebook.com/AutonomyWorks<br />

www.linkedin.com/company/2804771<br />

The Douglas Center<br />

The Douglas Center provides machine sewing training and<br />

employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.<br />

Many tasks related to sewing are learned, such as cutting,<br />

ironing, measuring as well as sewing. The Douglas Center,<br />

in partnership with <strong>the</strong> AbilityOne program, has held sewing<br />

contracts with <strong>the</strong> U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), in<br />

addition to an increasing number of sewing contracts from<br />

<strong>the</strong> private sector.<br />

The Perk Center Cafe<br />

from <strong>the</strong> Milestones Magazine article “The Birth, Care,<br />

and Feeding of a Micro-Enterprise”<br />

“The Perk Center Cafe is a not-for-profit business enterprise<br />

created through Great Potentials, Inc. and by four parents and<br />

one sibling of an individual with intellectual/developmental<br />

disabilities. It is a collaboration with <strong>the</strong> Glenview Park District,<br />

who donates <strong>the</strong> space for <strong>the</strong> Cafe. The Perk Center Cafe’s<br />

goals are four-fold: to provide employment, volunteer, and<br />

Patch<br />

from a Feb. 2020 article posted in Patch<br />

“The North Suburban YMCA has announced it will open Café<br />

Voca, a new coffee bar that will provide vocational training and<br />

employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental<br />

challenges. Scheduled to open in September, Café Voca will<br />

vocational training opportunities to individuals with<br />

developmental disabilities; to offer good quality food to<br />

customers; to build positive relationships in <strong>the</strong> community;<br />

and to serve as model to o<strong>the</strong>rs who might wish to create<br />

businesses for <strong>the</strong> purpose of employment of people<br />

with disabilities.<br />

be located in <strong>the</strong> Y’s lobby and serve coffee, o<strong>the</strong>r hot beverages,<br />

and packaged snacks. Café Voca’s trainees will be recruited<br />

from <strong>the</strong> Wheat Mission, Y membership, and <strong>the</strong> community at<br />

Feel free to visit <strong>the</strong> website: www.perkcentercafe.org<br />

Contact Gail Metrick at gmetrick@comcast.net”<br />

large; hands-on training will be provided by Autism Workforce,<br />

<strong>the</strong> employment training arm of <strong>the</strong> Exercise Connection”.<br />

Clearbrook<br />

Clearbrook has a document destruction (shredding)<br />

Contact info:<br />

Ellen Mirochnick,<br />

North Suburban YMCA <strong>Special</strong> Services Coordinator,<br />

business enterprise, which serves <strong>the</strong> community and offers<br />

job opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.<br />

Community clients include doctor and lawyer offices.<br />

847-272-7250 Ext. 1239,<br />

emirochnick@nsymca.org<br />

Location is 746 S. Vermont St in Palatine. Drop-off is<br />

accepted. This enterprise currently has eight clients who<br />

AutonomyWorks<br />

from <strong>the</strong> Sept 2018 blog by Karrie Pece, of AutonomyWorks<br />

AutonomyWorks is a for-profit social enterprise located in<br />

Downers Grove, in <strong>the</strong> Greater Chicago area. Along with<br />

work in document destruction.<br />



At Your Service<br />

Finding/keeping a job, especially <strong>the</strong> first job, can be a struggle for<br />

anyone. That old “Catch-22”, “you can’t get experience without a<br />

job; you can’t get a job without experience” can be an obstacle for<br />

anyone. This can be especially true for people with disabilities.<br />

Milestones Magazine has “thrown its hat in <strong>the</strong> ring” towards <strong>the</strong><br />

goal of decreasing unemployment among people with disabilities<br />

with this employment-<strong>the</strong>med issue of <strong>the</strong> magazine; and with a<br />

section of <strong>the</strong> website called <strong>the</strong> Work-Around Registry.<br />

The registry is intended, first and foremost, as a vehicle for<br />

families who have one or more members with a disability (any<br />

type, any degree). They can use <strong>the</strong> registry for a variety of<br />

reasons, including<br />

1. They would like to hire a person with a disability to do a<br />

needed household chore or errand, such as grocery shopping<br />

or yard work.<br />

2. Their child with a disability is looking for work with flexible,<br />

seasonal, or temporary status.<br />

Some folks (including those with disabilities) are not necessarily<br />

looking to make a lot of money or work a ton of hours in any<br />

given day, week, month, or year. They may feel <strong>the</strong>y risk losing<br />

government benefits (such as with Medicaid waiver programs),<br />

<strong>the</strong>y may have limited hours to devote due to o<strong>the</strong>r activities/<br />

priorities in <strong>the</strong>ir lives, or <strong>the</strong>y may simply want to try out a<br />

few of what used to be (and may still be) called “odd jobs”.<br />

Whatever <strong>the</strong>ir reasons, this registry is (or may be) for <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Milestones Magazine is planning an online event/presentation<br />

where we can answer your questions (about <strong>the</strong> registry), and<br />

sign-ups can be accomplished (one-time $25 cost).<br />

Questions, contact Susie Redfern: info@MilestonesMagazine.net.<br />

Please visit <strong>the</strong> Work-Around Registry online!<br />



Helping Individuals with Disabilities & <strong>the</strong>ir Families<br />

Achieve & Celebrate Events & Milestones in <strong>the</strong>ir Lives<br />

Connections child care<br />

Child Care Connections links families to child<br />

care suited to children with challenges.<br />

Child Care Connections also provides informational<br />

articles (referencing North Carolina University<br />

Extension Service) about adapting child care<br />

Features a registry that both parents and providers<br />

can Sign-Up for when <strong>the</strong>y are looking for, or offering,<br />

care for children with various challenges, such as<br />

programs to children with special needs. Once you<br />

sign-up you’ll receive <strong>the</strong> article Adapting <strong>the</strong> Child<br />

Care Environment for Children with <strong>Special</strong> Needs.<br />

developmental disability, autism, hearing impairment,<br />

vision impairment, and more!<br />

Check out our website: milestonesmagazine.net<br />


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