Patient Care

$2.35M Grant to Improve Employment for Individuals with Disabilities

Oct. 20, 2011
UR’s Institute for Innovative Transition using partnerships to expand programs across state

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded the University of Rochester’s Institute for Innovative Transition a $2.35 million grant to replicate the success the institute has had in developing programs to improve employment opportunities for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Nationwide, only 17 percent of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are employed and even fewer have obtained competitive employment that earns them at least minimum wage. This project, aimed at dramatically increasing that percentage, will enhance collaboration among the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC), New York State Education Department and its Office of Special Education, Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR), and the Institute for Innovative Transition at the University of Rochester.

“Far too few individuals with disabilities have the opportunity for competitive employment in New York,” said Susan Hetherington, principal investigator for the grant and co-director of the Institute for Innovative Transition. “With this grant, we’ll be able to work with our statewide partners to engage in systemic change and policies that will result in increased access to and support for integrated, competitive employment.”

This project will create statewide and regional consortia of stakeholders (agencies, individuals, employers, parents.) to collaborate to bring about systems changes that encourage competitive employment. This will center 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 outcomes for young people.

·         enhancing collaboration to make the transition from secondary school to prevocational training or integrated employment smoother.

“Having overcome the lethality of many congenital and developmental conditions, pediatrics now has the happy privilege of learning how best to support individuals with disabilities throughout the lifespan. This project will help us define and implement best practices that transition young people with disabilities into adult life with an unprecedented degree of independence and dignity,” said Nina F. Schor, M.D., Ph.D., William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and pediatrician-in-chief of Golisano Children’s Hospital. “I am so looking forward to seeing more and more of our Project SEARCH™ graduates working at Golisano Children’s Hospital and out in our community. They are testimony to the enormous value of the maximization of human potential.”

A partnership among several local agencies and funders brought Rochester its first Project SEARCHTM, a program that helps young adults with developmental disabilities transition to the work world by giving them hands-on experience, in 2009. Coordinated by the Institute for Innovative Transition at Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, which was initially funded by a grant from the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, the program began at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center with the collaboration of Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES, The Arc of Monroe County and New York State’s Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR). It has since expanded to two more sites and includes the Rochester City School District and the City of Rochester, Monroe #1 BOCES and Wegmans.

The Institute for Innovative Transition is a partnership of the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation and the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education and Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities. The institute, which was launched in 2008 and sustained through $1.5 million in grants from the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation and a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as grants from the New York State Developmental Disability Planning, is led by Martha Mock, Ph.D., and Susan Hetherington, who both hold joint appointments at the Warner School and URMC’s Department of Pediatrics. The Institute aims to improve the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families as they transition from school age to adulthood. For more information about the Institute, visit

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About Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities
The Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities (SCDD), a University Center of Excellence for Developmental Disabilities, is a federally designated interdisciplinary division of the Department of Pediatrics involving faculty and students from divisions, departments, and schools of the University of Rochester, as well as other area institutions of higher learning. SCDD provides services, interdisciplinary training, research, and community education and technical assistance to children with disabilities, their families, schools, and providers. About the Warner School of Education Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, counseling, human development, and educational policy. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its Ed.D. programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform.