Burton Blatt Institute experts to provide legal analysis as part of $2.35 million grant

November 29, 2011

In New York state, unemployment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has reached 66 percent, and those who are employed often have difficulty obtaining competitive employment that earns them at least a minimum wage.

The Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University, as a partner in a $2.35 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant recently awarded to the University of Rochester’s Institute for Innovative Transition, will provide substantial legal and policy analysis to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The grant will allow BBI, the Institute for Innovative Transition and other collaborators to develop and sustain activities that improve opportunities for integrated and competitive employment, improving the quality of life and independence for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The BBI research team will review and isolate funding streams for services and support to help achieve competitive employment, address legal and policy barriers at a federal and state level related to eligibility for supports and services, improve cross-system coordination of supports and engage the business community. BBI’s Michael Morris, executive director, and Meera Adya, director of research, will be assisted in conducting the legal analysis for this project by William Myhill, director of legal research, and Kelly Bunch, law and policy research associate. Robert Myers, senior research associate, will coordinate BBI project activities across each of the New York state agency and university grant partners.

This project will create statewide and regional consortia of stakeholders (agencies, individuals, employers and parents) to collaborate to bring about systems changes that encourage integrated competitive employment for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in transition from high school to participation in small, medium and large businesses across market sectors statewide.

“This is a great opportunity for BBI legal experts to help identify barriers and propose policy changes that provide a progressive framework for support of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” says Morris. “The new policy framework, to be developed with a diverse group of public and private stakeholders, can be an important roadmap that puts a spotlight on New York, and it can be replicated by other states trying to design an employment first approach for the target audience.”

The project will focus on:

  • Developing policies that support competitive employment in integrated settings (not jobs that only employ individuals with disabilities) as the first and desired outcome for young people.
  • Removing barriers to competitive employment in integrated settings.
  • Improving employment and economic outcomes for young people. 
  • Enhancing collaboration to make the transition from secondary school to integrated employment smoother.

Other grant partners include the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, New York State Department of Education’s Office for Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR), New York State Department of Education’s Office of Special Education, Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, National Youth Leadership Network , Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, New York Independent Living Council and Project SEARCHTM at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.