A Webinar Series to Promote Real Work and Real Pay for People with Disabilities: Systems Change and Provider Transformation in Arizona

Vanessa Zuber - A smiling white woman wearing glasses with brown, medium/short hair

By Vanessa Zuber
Sonoran UCEDD Trainee 2020-2021
Undergraduate Certificate in DD

I am excited to be collaborating and developing a 2021-webinar series for the Arizona Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) chapter as my community portfolio experience. APSE is the only national non-profit organization to focus and promote Employment First initiatives and facilitate equitable and inclusive work opportunities for people with disabilities (PWD). There are thirty-eight chapters all over the country! 

I have felt strongly connected to this organization throughout my years as an employment services provider, a sibling to my brother Nathan, whom is on the autism spectrum and now as an undergraduate student and Sonoran UCEDD trainee.

In planning for my community portfolio, I felt compelled to organize a set of webinars as a way to delve deeper into my learning journey, kick-start our chapter’s presence in Arizona, and to convey best practices and progressive ideas about competitive integrated employment (CIE) in Arizona. Yes, an ambitious project! APSE and nationwide chapters are advocating and participating in policy and legislative movements related to real work real pay for PWD, which has truly resonated with me. Currently, for example, is the Transformation to Competitive and Integrated Employment Act, which phases out the payment of subminimum wages under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) over a five-year period. This legislation would provide service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with resources they may need to create competitive integrated employment (CIE) services and wraparound supports when phasing out subminimum wages.

In the state of Arizona, we still maintain center-based employment, and subminimum wage work programs and practices, creating a continual disconnect between our public school system and some state agency’s concerns on whether employment should be one of the expected outcomes for youth who have disabilities and whether PWD can be employed competitively in integrated work settings. If you ask me, Arizona continues to be hesitant and indecisive regarding CIE, hence the need for more education on strategies and supports, modeling best practices, collaboration, and additional statewide efforts for provider and systems transformation to progress towards equitable work opportunities for PWD.

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