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Customized Employment Enriches the Lives of People with Significant Disabilities: Tennessee

Tennessee Customized Employment Partnership

From Tennessee Customized Employment Partnership Infobrief, Volume 2, Issue 2, a publication of the University of Tennessee Center on Disability and Employment

Bill works for Scripps Networks as a Research Assistant making $10 an hour, working 40 hours per week. Prior to TCEP, Bill had completed a degree in communications from Maryville College, had no income, and was struggling to find employment. He presently is living with his parents but has his sights on living on his own. He purchased a car and is enjoying activities outside of work. He’s a big fan of Disney and is saving to take a trip to Disney World.

Ashton has been working at Covenant Health Parkwest Hospital for almost a year, where he earns $7.35 per hour, working 15 hours per week. Prior to TCEP, he had exited school and was not receiving direct adult services. Kay Wright, HR Director at Covenant says, “Ashton clearly enjoys his job. His energetic presence boosts the morale of other employees.” As a result, his job responsibilities have been increased. Ashton interacts with coworkers at lunch and has the opportunity to see his former high school classmates as they come to the hospital for work experiences. He grins at their presence as if to say, “I’ve got a job, what about you?!” At home, Ashton’s parents express that he seems happier. His level of interest in his position is expressed by his indicating to his father that it is time to go to work by bringing him the car keys! To improve his self-sufficiency in maintaining job supports, he recently applied for SSI benefits, which will be used to pay for job coaching supports and transportation. His parents are feeling more secure about his future.

Barbara is now a teacher’s aide at the YMCA Community Kids. Her economic growth went from $25-$30 per week working in a sheltered workshop to $72 per week. She never thought that she would be called “Ms. Barbara.” She is earning respect from both the children and the parents. She took a big step toward independence to get to this job. Barbara was a public bus user, but with this job she had to master transfers. Motivation and instruction helped her overcome this obstacle. Barbara is saving her earnings to take her mom to dinner at a nice restaurant. While on the job, she will take skill building classes and will begin with Red Cross Basic First Aide. She is also learning about the employee benefits offered by the YMCA and is becoming interested in exercise and swimming classes.

Dave works for Papa John’s pizza assembling pizza boxes. He is excited about his work since he is good with his hands, works fast, and is gratified by his production. His coworkers value Dave’s work because he provides them with this support so that they can focus on customer demands. His employer states that his productivity helps morale among his coworkers. He works 9 hours per week and earns $66.00. He wants to set up a savings account so that he can work toward supporting himself. Dave also volunteers at Children’s Hospital where he manages the toy cart. This provides him with the opportunity to interact with the children. He meets with other volunteers over lunch. He and his family frequently enjoy pizza from Papa John’s at home. Dave knows all of the drivers now and each time invites them into his home to be with his family.

Mike is in his second season as a promotions assistant with the Tennessee Smokies baseball team. He earns $128 a month for four games. Mike wore his employee badge a month before the games began to exhibit his pride and to promote the Smokies – a symbol of his identity. Jon Zeitz, Mike’s supervisor, noted that he is doing a great job and is very dependable by stating, “He is one of the best workers.”

Chuck enjoys his employment with Mobile Meals as a container utility aide earning5.98 per week. A very social guy, Chuck has learned to help his coworkers stay on task as well as pick up some of his work load – he’s learning the art of delegation! Chuck is taking charge of his work schedule by taking the initiative to get his white shirt for work and his lunch box. He is giving back to the community 3 days a week through his job at Mobile Meals.

Kathy is learning about the work world at Coldwell Bankers/Wallace & Wallace Realty. She earns $6.50 per hour. Prior to TCEP, Kathy was on the DMRS waiting list for services. She is directing her community participation services offered by her residential provider by doing what she likes to do best – going out to lunch and shopping after work. Kathy enjoys her own work space at the realty company. She enjoys having the opportunity to ‘dress up’ and is pleased when her coworkers compliment her appearance. Kathy is currently on medical leave, and her employer is holding her position until she returns.

Marty is presently volunteering to determine his work interests. He thought he wanted to work with large animals and did so at a local large animal clinic. Soon he found that he was uncomfortable with their size. He is now volunteering at a small animal clinic and is satisfied. Job development for paid wages will begin soon. Marty attended a Christmas party with his company friends. His parents went along to provide support, but soon into the party Marty linked up with coworkers. His parents left the party knowing that their son was having a good time!

These job seekers illustrate how their lives have been enhanced by adding rewarding employment opportunities. They are making contributions to their communities, workplace, and home life, and they are effective role models for friends and coworkers. Their economic power has grown 100%, and they are able to use their money to access community life. Social circles have blossomed to include coworkers, community helpers, and customers. As many of us do, they are meeting and greeting the public by identifying with their employer. Employment is helping these young people launch new career and life paths.

TCEP will continue to observe and document these job seekers as they continue on their journey… This author would like to extend a warm appreciation to job seekers, employers, and families for the courage that has been exhibited as well as to all of the direct support workers who make things happen behind the scenes.

Copyright 2004, Center on Disability and Employment. All Rights Reserved.

This electronic infobrief was designed by CDE of The University of Tennessee on behalf of the Tennessee Customized Employment Partnership (TCEP). TCEP is funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor (grant# E-9-4-1-0079). The opinions contained in this web site are those of the grantees and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Labor.

For more information about these case studies, please contact:
Windie Wilson
(865) 544-5200 (voice)

Julie Huber
865-974-4487 (voice)
865-974-9400 (TTY)

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