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OSERS: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
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RSA

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2009

Meshing gears
The Helpfulness of
Employment Service Systems Research and Training

The Employment Service Systems Research and Training Center (ESSRTC) develops and enhances partnerships to improve the quality of employment services, opportunities, and outcomes for people with disabilities. Several research projects are designed to meet this goal and these projects represent partnerships across public agencies, between not-for-profit and public agencies, and between rehabilitation agencies and businesses.

One of the ESSRTC projects is the Workplace Socialization Model (WPS). This project focuses on job enhancement and retention. The WPS aims to extend the job tenure of employees with a disability and other positive work outcomes including the employee’s job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and level of work culture competency, as well as the employer’s satisfaction with the employee’s job performance. See the "Helpfulness of the WPS Project" box below for a success story of this approach.

Helpfulness of the
Workplace Socialization Model (WPS) Project

Elizabeth R. Stone, MA, CASAC-T

I have been impacted by this project in a way that one might not traditionally think of, but it has been a significant way nonetheless. I sat with providers as the volunteer consumer representative at meetings. This was important for me in a number of ways.

Prior to being sidelined by my illness, I had worked in a professional capacity in human services. Emily, a staff member at a rehabilitation program I was attending, suggested that I serve as the consumer voice for the project. I happily consented. I was warmly welcomed from my very first meeting on. Jamie (Dr. Mitus who is the Principal Investigator) set the tone, really. She embraced not only my presence, but my ideas. I was treated as an equal member of the committee, with respect given to what I had to offer. This was crucial for me in regaining a sense of competence and value, and for seeing myself as a professional once again.

Committee members participated in ‘train-the-trainers’ sessions on the curriculum (Workplace Socialization) that Jamie was developing. Learning the content helped me enormously. There were many ideals I held to tightly about appropriate workplace culture that I was shocked to learn were erroneous. This gave me insight into why I had a history of difficulty in interpersonal relations on the job. Learning to teach the curriculum was really learning its lessons, lessons I needed to learn myself. Doing so in this context was very non-threatening because I did not have to admit my shortcomings.

For the initial meetings I participated in, Emily brought me with her. When I got my own transportation, I drove myself. This, too, contributed to a sense of freedom and independence.

The true beauty of my experience with the WPS project is that I am able to pass on the lessons I have learned. I currently work as a regional trainer for a state-wide organization that promotes the recovery, rehabilitation and rights of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. I provide technical assistance and consultation to programs that are licensed by the New York State Office of Mental Health to support their efforts in providing recovery-facilitating services.

A key to independence and community integration is competitive employment. Therefore, I routinely refer to Jamie’s materials and ask people to link with her for the supported employment components of their programs. In this way, I am spreading the messages to providers who can incorporate them into their work, and further disseminate the information to my peers who may be taking those initial forays into employment, and a life of greater satisfaction and meaning.

I attribute my success in my position, as well as the hope I pass along to others, directly to my experience as a volunteer consumer representative on the WPS project.

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Disclaimer

The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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Last Modified: 10/28/2009