The Arc Tennessee believes that people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) can be employed in the community alongside people without disabilities and earn competitive wages. They should be supported to make informed choices about their work and careers and have the resources to seek, obtain, and be successful in community employment.
The State of Tennessee demonstrated its support of this belief by becoming an Employment First state on June 19, 2013, Governor Haslam signed Executive Order #28. Through this order, the Employment First Taskforce was formed. It includes government departments, family members, providers, advocacy organizations and other stakeholders that assess the barriers to employment for people with disabilities in Tennessee. The Employment First Taskforce report can be found HERE.
VR Pre-Employment Training Services (Pre-ETS)
The Arc Tennessee has a grant with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) to work with transition age (14-22) students with disabilities to prepare them for the world of work. Students do not have to apply for or be eligible for VR servicesto participate in Pre-ETS services; they simply need to have a diagnosis of a disability. Interested students and families simply need to ask their teacher how to get Pre-ETS services with The Arc Tennessee.
Pre-ETS services include workplace readiness, postsecondary education counseling, and self-advocacy.
Workplace readiness includes learning about things like, appropriate dress for interviews and work; interview skills; attendance; interacting with co-workers and customers; problem-solving; reading a work schedule; appropriately calling in sick for work.
Secondary education counseling includes learning about different postsecondary education options; information on postsecondary programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities; information for other postsecondary educational programs; applying for postsecondary programs; applying for educational financial aid.
Self-Advocacy training includes the history of the disability movement; learning/mentoring from other self-advocates; self-determination; student directed Individualized Education (IEP) meetings; basics of learning when/where to self-disclose your disability; learning how to assess your own need for accommodations.
For more information on the Pre-ETS Program, contact Loria Hubbard Richardson or phone (615) 248-5878 extension 28 or visit Vocational Rehabilitation's website HERE.
Job Club is a safe place where young adults and adults with disabilities who are working or want to work meet in Nashville the third Tuesday of every month to share their experiences and problem solve together. Job Club topics have included skill identification, turning hobbies into paid work, resume writing, dressing for success, interview skills, working with difficult bosses, customer and co-workers, and more. To learn more about Job Club, contact David Griffin.
Employment Policy and Systems Advocacy
The Arc Tennessee is actively involved in several taskforces, alliances, and other collaborations committed to improving employment outcomes for all people with IDD:
TennesseeWorks – click HERE to visit the TennesseeWorks website that is designed to be the “one-stop shop” in Tennessee for all information related to employment of people with disabilities. To watch a video on why work matters, click HERE.
State Tennessee Employment Consortium(STEC) – a statewide collaboration facilitated by DIDD to promote employment for people with IDD. Read their initiatives HERE.
Employment First Taskforce – established by the Executive Order #28 above. To view the goals of the APSE, clickHERE.
Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance – Tennessee currently has five post-secondary programs for young adults with IDD; to learn more about these programs, click
Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES Stakeholder Group – a statewide collaborative stakeholders facilitated by TennCare to solicit feedback on this new program. To learn more about the ECF CHOICES Program, click HERE.
Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) is a federal and state-funded program providing services to help individuals with disabilities enter or return to employment. It is designed to assist individuals of work age with physical and/or mental disabilities compete successfully with others in earning a livelihood. To learn how to get a head start with Vocational Rehabilitation, click
HERE. If you have applied for VR services and you are experiencing difficulties with the process, contact Client Assistance Program (CAP) at Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) for help.
Ticket to Work
The Ticket to Work (Ticket) is a voluntary program of the Social Security Administration for people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) because of a disability. Individuals who are eligible will have received a letter at some point indicating they are eligible for the program. People do not receive a physical “ticket” that must be “redeemed” in order to receive the benefits of the program. To view a PowerPoint presentation that discusses the Ticket to Work Initiative in Tennessee, click HERE.
Benefits to Work
Many people with IDD are afraid to pursue community, integrated employment options because of the potential loss of their benefits. The Benefits to Work Program promotes self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities by alleviating significant obstacles faced when going to work including concern about healthcare coverage and others benefits. Their experts have years of experience with Social Security employment supports such as Ticket to Work and will provide in-depth analyses of benefits and guidance. They equip those they serve with tools to make informed decisions about their financial circumstances and courage to pursue career goals.
Project SEARCH is a nationally acclaimed model for transitioning students with intellectual and developmental disabilities from high school into employment through internships at community businesses (though some sites in TN have decided to serve adults with disabilities, rather than students). To learn more about Project Search in Tennessee, click HERE.
To read Kindred Stories on Employment click HERE.
DIDD continues working with contracted providers to improve employment outcomes for people with IDD supported through the DIDD Medicaid Waivers. To view employment success stories of people with IDD click HERE.