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Thursday, September 26, 2013

ADA Generation

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, today released a report on the "ADA Generation"
Harkin also calls for enactment of several key pieces of legislation—including a reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act­ (WIA)—to create opportunities and incentives for young people with disabilities to work. The HELP Committee recently passed by a bipartisan vote of 18-3 a WIA bill that reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act, including vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs. Harkin worked on a bipartisan basis to make improvements to the Rehabilitation Act—Title V of WIA—aimed at making sure that young people with disabilities have increased preparation and opportunities for competitive, integrated employment. The bill requires state VR agencies, in conjunction with local educational agencies, to make “pre-employment transition services” available to students with disabilities.
The bill will also require individuals under the age of 24 with a significant disability to make a serious attempt at competitive, integrated employment—including getting pre-employment transition services and utilizing VR services—before he or she can consider working at a segregated workshop or sheltered employment setting. For individuals who are currently in sheltered employment settings, the bill will increase opportunities to move into competitive, integrated employment by requiring ongoing career counseling, information, and referrals about programs that offer employment-related services and supports. Updates to the bill also focus on creating better alignment of government programs at the national level that are focused on employment and independent living for people with disabilities.
Portions of the report deal with autism:
 Exciting new postsecondary programs are recognizing the untapped potential of the ADA Generation and designing options to fit their unique needs. The Model Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) provides almost $11 million to 27 institutions and education consortia to expand their programs for students with intellectual disabilities. In 15 states, the Community College Consortium on Autism and Intellectual Disabilities (CCCAID) is working to support colleges as they develop programs for students with autism and disabilities. Programs like TPSID and CCCAID are providing important opportunities for students to enter and succeed in postsecondary education; however, they remain limited in reach and scope.
Members of the ADA Generation also need consistent supports and services once they enroll in higher education programs. Currently, young people with disabilities are less likely to complete a degree or certificate program than their non-disabled peers, and students with disabilities who do graduate often take twice as long to do so.xxvi A key factor significantly contributing to the success of the ADA Generation is the availability of supports and services on college campuses. Students are eligible for supports under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Higher Education Opportunity Act Amendments of 2008. But unlike in high school, students must seek out offices providing disability services on their own and work with professors and other university personnel to ensure that their accommodations are met. The TPSID programs and the autism and intellectual disabilities consortia have provided us the knowledge that consistent, tailored supports need to be available at the post-secondary level for students with disabilities to successfully gain certificates, two-year degrees and four-year degrees that will greatly increase their ability to enter the job market, sustain a career and become economically independent. We must use the information gained from these pilots to inform how all post-secondary programs support young people with disabilities.xxvii
 xxvi U.S. Department of Education. The Condition of Education. (2009). National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC.
xxvii Grigal, M. .Hart, D., Weir, C. (2012). A Survey of Postsecondary Education Programs for Students With Intellectual Disabilities in the United States. Journal of Policy and Practice in intellectual Disabilities. 9(4), 223-233, December 2012.