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LEAD On! - March 2013

LEAD On! - March 2013 Newsletter

Issue 2
March 25, 2013

On February 22nd, Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, and LEAD Center staff engaged high-level officials from select mayors' offices nationwide in a strategic planning session at the quarterly forum for the Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition (CFE Coalition) in Miami.

As guests of the CFE Fund, ODEP and National Disability Institute’s LEAD Center joined CFE for the brainstorming session – the first phase in a unique partnership among the three organizations. The brainstorming session's goal is to design and implement a national integration strategy grounded in the positive theory that workforce development programs, much like other traditional social services, offer key touch points to build the financial capability of families and households. Fortifying these touch points helps families to develop stronger financial management skills and to take advantage of workforce development opportunities to increase income and financial stability. By deploying a combination of financial empowerment tools and strategies integrated into the delivery of workforce development services and supports, the goal of the LEAD Center and the CFE Fund is to test and demonstrate a strategic approach in select pilot cities that show how enhanced financial capability can boost the effectiveness and improve the outcomes of workforce development programs for jobseekers with and without disabilities.

The CFE Fund is pioneering municipal efforts to improve the financial stability of low- and moderate-income households by leveraging opportunities unique to local government. The Fund assists mayors and other local leaders to identify, develop, fund, implement and research pilots and programs to help families achieve financial stability, build assets and grow their financial resources. Financial empowerment focuses on four key areas: professional financial counseling and education, access to safe and affordable mainstream banking products and services, short- and long-term asset building activities, and consumer protection in the financial services marketplace.

Assistant Secretary Martinez provided opening remarks to set the stage for the strategic planning session. "American Job Centers offer an important venue to reach low-income job seekers with and without disabilities who are challenged by limited financial resources and debt," explained Assistant Secretary Martinez. She also offered the insight that the cities in attendance "are already serving job seekers with disabilities who are a significant segment of low-income populations who are also women, Latino, and people of color." Martinez urged the group to be creative in their planning to integrate financial empowerment and workforce development activities, and their work will offer the Department of Labor new options to replicate and sustain their activities nationwide.

NDI Executive Director Michael Morris and Associate Commissioner, Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Financial Empowerment Amelia Erwitt, facilitated the planning session. Morris urged the group to think first not about persons with disabilities, but about universal design in terms of options for integrated service delivery that would benefit all service recipients in American Job Centers (AJCs). Participants from Seattle, San Francisco, Newark and San Antonio described current activities with free tax preparation assistance, financial education and financial coaching already being offered in the AJCs.

Development of a checklist as both an education and evaluation tool generated great interest to help the cities engage AJCs and the workforce development system in designing local-level collaboration. Participants also agreed defining the success of future LEAD Center pilot sites with standard metrics and an approach to measurement would leverage CFE's current approach to metrics and measurement with other pilot projects that are replicating financial empowerment activities.

Jonathan Mintz, co-chair of the CFE Coalition and the Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs for New York City summed up the enthusiastic response of the Coalition members at the end of the planning session, saying, "I learned so much in 90 minutes. I get it. We have the opportunity collectively to change the nature of services delivered in the AJCs that improve financial capability and employment outcomes for everyone, both jobseekers with and without disabilities, and bring it to scale."

To learn more about the CFE fund, visit To read more about Municipal Financial Empowerment: A Supervitamin for Public Programs visit

The strategic planning phase of the LEAD Center and CFE economic advancement initiative will continue over the next six months with the aim to pilot an integrated service delivery model in at least two cities in 2014.

People with disabilities are less likely to be employed than people without disabilities, and when employed, they earn less than their colleagues without disabilities, according to the newly released U.S. Census Bureau's Community Survey. Based on the new Disability Employment Tabulation the statistics reveal that, between 2008 and 2010, people with disabilities were three times less likely to be employed than people without disabilities and accounted for only six percent of the civilian labor force.

The survey showed more than half of all workers with disabilities were concentrated in four general occupation groups: service workers (except protective services) with 18.2 percent, administrative support (15.1 percent), sales workers (10.4 percent), and management, business and finance (8.9 percent). When looking at specific occupations, janitors and building cleaners had the highest numbers of employees with disabilities, followed by drivers/sales workers and truck drivers, cashiers and retail salespeople.

People with disabilities also earned about 75 percent of what workers without disabilities earn. More than half of workers with disabilities (52 percent) earned less than $25,000 in the previous year, compared with only 38 percent of workers without disabilities.

The Disability Employment Tabulation – sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs – presents in-depth labor force characteristics of individuals with disabilities, with greater details on employment status, occupation, education and earnings. The Disability Employment Tabulation provides accurate data to help inform education, research and policy initiatives, such as those underway at the LEAD Center, to improve employment and economic advancement outcomes for people with disabilities.

The Disability Employment Tabulation 2008-2010 (three-year American Community Survey data) is available through American FactFinder (AFF). The Disability Employment Tabulation 2008-2010 provides more than 1 billion estimates showing the disability status and diversity of the labor force and population 16 and over for more than 4,000 unique geographic entities. Tables may include employment status, detailed occupation, occupation groups, citizenship, educational attainment, age, race, sex and earnings. This Tabulation also shows estimates for the U.S. total, states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, metro/micro areas, EEO County Sets, and PUMAs (Public Use Microdata Areas). All tables also include estimates, percentages and margins of error.

Learn more about these important findings through the following links or access the data through the American Fact Finder:

·         Disability Employment Tabulation Main Page

·         Disability Employment Tabulation Data

·         Press Release

Strengthening the capacity of the workforce investment system to maximize services to jobseekers with disabilities while promoting self-advocacy for people with disabilities to better use the American Job Center Network is a core goal of the LEAD Center. The LEAD Center's partnership with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) is central to achieving this goal.

The LEAD Center has entered into Memordanda of Understanding (MOUs) with five Centers for Independent Living (CILs) located in urban and rural settings across the country to implement the innovative CIL Demonstration to expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities through linkages with the public workforce system represented by American Job Centers (AJCs). The selected CILs include:

  • Disability Rights and Resources, Birmingham, Ala.
  • Paraquad, St. Louis, Mo.
  • IndependenceFirst, Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Montana Independent Living Project (MILP), Helena, Mont.
  • Community Resources for Independent Living (CRIL), Hayward, Calif.

These CILs represent extensive experience in working with many job seekers with a cross-spectrum of disabilities. Among other supports, their staff members have expertise on the impact of employment on benefits, working with Social Security disability recipients, guidance on disclosure of disability and requesting accommodations, and resolution of employment challenges such as viable transportation options. These CILs also have established linkages with AJCs in their areas and will provide technical assistance to the AJC staff on universal access requirements, available assistive technologies, resources to improve access, disability etiquette, creating a welcoming environment for job seekers with disabilities, and linkages to resources and supports to increase successful employment and career advancement opportunities. This innovative demonstration incorporates collaboration between NCIL and the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) with ultimate goals of impacting workforce service delivery at an individual and systems level.

By Mike Callahan & Abby Cooper

Many people secure employment by applying for a job opening, presenting their best skills and abilities to the employers and (hopefully) landing a job. This process frequently involves a comparison between all of the applicants wanting the same job by a prospective employer against the demands contained in the job description. The applicant who appears the best fit for the position is hired. This process of securing employment is often referred to as a "demand" or "labor market" strategy. The labor market approach works well for many applicants and employers, but not all. Many job seekers have specific skills and can make clear contributions to employers, but do not compete well regarding the variety of demands for a desired job and, thus, remain unemployed. One solution to this issue is customized employment. Many employers are willing to unbundle the tasks of their job descriptions to improve workflow and meet unmet needs by reassembling some of the tasks into a new job description molded to fit the skills and tasks that can be performed by one particular job seeker. Customized Employment (CE) is a process that works well for some job seekers, including many people with disabilities, who struggle with competing against the demands of job openings in the labor market. CE has been an effective approach, developed over the last two decades, in assisting job seekers with a variety of complexities to obtain employment.

Customized Employment starts by identifying the job seeker’s conditions for success, interests toward certain areas of work and specific contributions to be offered to employers rather than with what employers are requiring for open jobs. The process is called Discovery, a qualitative, non-comparative approach that finds the best dimensions of each job seeker’s life and then translates that life competence into benefit to potential employers. It is a positive, common sense approach that looks for the best in each person. It is non-evaluative and lays the foundation for successful employment. Traditionally, Discovery has been an individualized service, facilitated by a professional who looks at all aspects of the person’s life to learn where that person is at his/her best and what s/he would need to be successful. The process involves using the tools of social science – observation of the person in an array of settings, interviews of individuals who know the person well and participation in activities with the individuals.

While Discovery has been shown to be an effective tool to set the foundation of employment services for certain job seekers, the individualized nature of facilitated Discovery is intensive, generally requiring more staff resources than traditional assessment methods. Therefore, the LEAD Center is piloting Group Discovery as an AJC service to improve employment outcomes for job seekers with disabilities and other complexities while making more efficient use of staff resources. Group Discovery utilizes all the values and many of the strategies of facilitated Discovery but differs from the individualized approach in the following manner. Group Discovery:

  • is conducted in a classroom setting with seven to ten job seekers;
  • uses the support and energy of the group to help individual job seekers see their contributions and possibilities;
  • is structured so that job seekers are doing their own discovery, not primarily by the facilitator: thus job seekers are interviewing people who know them well, looking at their daily routines and thinking about what they need from employment;
  • requires attendance in seven weeks of classes by the job seeker to complete the group discovery activities and perform required homework; and
  • results in job seekers having all the information they need to create a successful employment plan.

Group Discovery is not dissimilar to many classes taught at American Job Centers in each state to provide job seekers with information they need to obtain employment. The value of Group Discovery is that it is structured to facilitate job seekers’ understanding of their contributions, discovery of the best they have to offer an employer and what they need from a job to be successful. Group Discovery allows the process to be empowering because it proceeds from the belief that all job seekers can be successful in obtaining employment that highlights the best they have to offer.

Mike Callahan is President and Abby Cooper is a Consultant with Marc Gold & Associates, a network of consultants providing technical assistance to systems, agencies and families interested in insuring the complete community participation of persons with significant disabilities. Callahan has consulted throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe on the area of supported employment and customized employment for the past 23 years. Cooper has more than 30 years of experience in directing and managing comprehensive, integrated employment services. Callahan and Cooper serve as subject matter experts for the LEAD Center's Customized Employment initiative, implementing group discovery at American Job Center pilot sites in Ohio and Kansas. The goal of the pilots is to develop and test group discovery policies, practices and tools that can be replicated in AJCs across the country.

Want to delve deeper into employment, policy and economic advancement issues impacting people with disabilities? The LEAD Center’s monthly webinar series offers opportunities to interface with thought leaders and subject matter experts about important issues affecting the disability community.

The LEAD webinar series is produced in three mini-series this year – Economic Advancement (February - April), Employment (May - July) and Leadership (August - October). Presented on the last Wednesday of every month from 3 - 4:30 p.m. Eastern, the series delivers valuable information for workforce development professionals, policy makers, employers and people with disabilities.

The series kicked off in January with an introductory webinar, “Exploring the New LEAD Center,” providing an overview of the LEAD Center and its work. February's webinar, the first in the Economic Advancement series, explored three free tax preparation models for American Job Center professionals to implement to further advance economic stability for their customers.

Upcoming webinars include:

March 27, 2013
Promoting Economic Advancement – Financial Education

Explore financial education, curriculum options and implementation strategies for American Job Centers.

Target Audience: Workforce Investment System and related stakeholders

REGISTER NOW for "Promoting Economic Advancement - Financial Education"

April 24, 2013
Using Work Incentives to Build Financial Stability

Discover opportunities for individuals with disabilities to increase income through the use of Social Security (SSDI and SSI) work incentives that support savings above the $2,000 SSI asset limit.

Target Audience: People with disabilities and related stakeholders

REGISTER NOW for "Using Work Incentives to Build Financial Stability"

Miss a webinar you wanted to see? All past webinars are archived on the LEAD Center YouTube channel for you to view at your convenience. Each webinar is live captioned with a script available on the archive. On April 1, visit the new LEAD Center website at to view and register for upcoming webinars. Have a webinar topic idea? Please send us your suggestions at We’d love to hear from you!

NAWDP LogoThe National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) has joined forces with the LEAD Center as a national partner to generate ideas, stimulate change and promote employment as a vital step toward economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.

As part of their commitment to systems-level change, NAWDP circulated a LinkedIn questionnaire to their members to gauge workforce development professionals’ level of knowledge relative to serving individuals with disabilities. Results from the survey have been critical to identifying the level of training and gaps in training needs for workforce development professionals, determining the barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities within workforce development agencies and providing the LEAD Center with information to expand outreach to workforce development professionals for future trainings.

More than 80 percent of survey participants indicated that they serve job seekers with disabilities; however, only one-third felt confident in their ability to serve these individuals. Several respondents cited challenges on educating employers about how to utilize job accommodations in the workplace and the diversity of serving individuals with disabilities. Many agreed that continued training and education was beneficial to serving job seekers with disabilities.

Among workforce professionals surveyed, multiple training topics relative to providing services to individuals with disabilities were identified as needed, and of interest to workforce professionals, including disability etiquette, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other employment legislation, and how to advise individuals on disclosing disability to employers. An astounding 80 percent reported a strong interest in training on two disability-related topics: (1) guidance on available job accommodations and workplace flexibility resources and how to work with employers to obtain them in the workplace, and (2) providing services and supports to job seekers with hidden disabilities.

To answer the call, the LEAD Center will present at the NAWDP National Conference in May in Minneapolis on “Workplace Flexibility,” an issue cited as a critical training need and interest among NAWDP survey participants. This session will review the positive impact workplace flexibility options have for both employee and employer and how workforce professionals can use relevant resources to facilitate workplace flexibility strategies. Participants will increase their understanding of the business case for and value of workplace flexibility and receive tools and resources to provide effective workplace flexibility strategies to employers and employees.

The LEAD Center will also complete a secret shopper initiative in collaboration with its national partner the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to design training tools relative to serving people with hidden disabilities (more information to follow in our next newsletter).

For questions, please contact Karen McCulloh, LEAD Center Project Director, or Alex Kielty, Team Leader for the Demonstrations and Innovations Team CIL Project,

Systems change doesn't happen in a vacuum. That's why collaboration and connection are core tenets of the LEAD Center. To help us stay engaged with interested individuals and organizations and you with us, the LEAD Center launched its social media sites to share information, spur conversation and discuss ideas.

Follow, friend and connect with us on our various social media sites to get the latest news from the LEAD Center and to share your opinions and insights. Although the LEAD Center website will not go live until April 1, 2013, you can visit right now and find links to our various social media sites, also listed below:

 Twitter @LEADCtr




Not on social media? You can still connect with us by sending an email to We'd love to hear from you!

Ari Ne'eman, President & Founder, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, LEAD Public Policy Team

Photo of Ari Ne'emanAri Ne'eman is President and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), an advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults seeking to increase the representation of Autistic people across society. He is an Autistic adult and a leading advocate in the neurodiversity and self-advocacy movements. He also serves as co-director of the LEAD Center’s Public Policy team.

In 2009, President Obama nominated Ne'eman to the National Council on Disability (NCD), a federal agency charged with advising Congress and the President on disability policy issues. He was confirmed by the Senate in July 2010 and currently chairs the Council’s Entitlements Committee. Between 2010 and 2012, Ne’eman chaired NCD’s Policy & Program Evaluation Committee. He worked to shut down the New York University Child Study Center’s “Ransom Notes” campaign and also led other successful disability community responses to offensive advertisements, including the response to the Autism Speaks “I am Autism” fundraising video. In his policy work, Ne’eman has worked on a wide variety of disability rights-related legislation relating to education, transition, employment, rights protection and other areas.

From 2010 to 2012, Ne'eman served as a public member to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory committee that coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism. Appointed by Governor Jon Corzine, Ne'eman served as Vice Chair of the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, where he represented autistic adults in reviewing the state’s autism services. He also previously served on the New Jersey Special Education Review Commission, where he authored a minority report on the topic of aversives, restraint and seclusion. In 2008, Ne’eman served as the first ever Patricia Morrissey Disability Policy Fellow at the Institute for Educational Leadership. That year, he also received the HSC Foundation “Advocates in Disability” Award, and in 2009, he received the Expanding Horizons Award from United Cerebral Palsy. He is also a board member of TASH, an advocacy organization focusing on advancing social justice for people with significant disabilities. In addition, he was named by the New York Jewish Week as one of their "36 by 36" in 2010. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, where he studied political science in the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program.

Cities for Financial Empowerment LogoThe Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) supports municipal efforts to improve the financial stability of households by leveraging opportunities unique to local government. By translating cutting-edge experience with large-scale programs, research and policy in cities of all sizes, the CFE Fund assists mayors and other local leaders to identify, develop, fund, implement and research pilots and programs that help families achieve financial stability, build assets and grow their financial resources. The CFE Fund is a national partner with the LEAD Center to develop integrated economic advancement strategies for people with disabilities.

Financial empowerment spans four key disciplines:

  • Professional financial counseling and education
  • Access to safe and affordable mainstream banking products and services
  • Short- and long-term asset building
  • Consumer protection in the financial services marketplace

The CFE Fund is building a movement of municipal leaders who have begun to integrate financial empowerment strategies into city service delivery. Launched by a pioneering field of municipal government leaders who have taken the charge to identify promising financial empowerment practices and to deliver these innovations and strategies at scale, the CFE Fund represents a vast array of approaches that have been designed and tested by cities, that leverage municipal platforms of power and politics to shift the way public antipoverty programs are designed and delivered.

With the ambitious agenda of formalizing and embedding financial capability and empowerment work into the fabric of local government, rather than only in the nonprofit sector, the CFE Fund works with local governments and those who partner with them to identify, implement and provide resources to innovative programming and program delivery streams. The CFE Fund is a project of Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of the world's largest foundations and financial institutions dedicated to improving the lives of people with low incomes and the cities where they live. To learn more, visit

Please note: The PDF generated using this link is not 508-compliant and is provided as a courtesy for those who wish to print the material. For a fully accessible version of this newsletter, please read the web-based version.