TASH Position Statement with Policy Recommendations on Competitive Integrated Employment and Optimal Socioeconomic Advancement

Revised September 17, 2021

Statement of Purpose

TASH affirms the right of all people with disabilities, including those with the most significant support needs, to full participation in community life with supports tailored to individual abilities, preferences, and needs. Work is a defining aspect of individual identity and a strong gateway to social interaction, economic advancement, and interpersonal relationships. TASH recognizes the importance of work in the lives of all people as a key social determinant of health and an essential conduit to full participation and inclusion in society. TASH is committed to promoting competitive, integrated employment[1] for all people with disabilities as a critical element of independent living. TASH supports policies that advance career development. TASH also supports systems-change efforts that are focused on the rapid elimination and permanent replacement of segregated work and day activities, the prioritization of Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) as the preferred outcome of any publicly-financed day and employment services, and the prohibition of subminimum wages being paid to workers with disabilities.


Research has affirmed the contributions that individuals with disabilities, including those with the most significant support needs, have made in the general workforce[2], and the benefits of CIE to workers with disabilities and taxpayers as opposed to traditional segregated work options[3]. However, despite this research base and the emphasis on CIE as a desired outcome for people with disabilities in federal civil rights law and public policy, the vast majority do not have access to viable CIE opportunities or the supports often needed to support career pathway development.[4] In fact, a majority of individuals with significant disabilities continue to be isolated and segregated in day habilitation centers and sheltered workshops or are unemployed and unserved on waiting lists. And of those engaged in sheltered work, a substantial number are still receiving subminimum wages. These disturbing trends perpetuate a lifetime of cyclical poverty and dependency of people with significant disabilities on the same publicly-funded systems that are restricting their access to viable CIE opportunities and optimal socioeconomic advancement. 

In many instances, individuals need access to ongoing supports at their workplace, while others require a customized process that allows them to make discrete contributions in relation to employer needs. Thus, access to both customized employment[5] strategies and ongoing individualized supported employment[6] services is imperative to assisting individuals with significant disabilities as needed in securing and maintaining CIE. TASH acknowledges the efforts of the majority of state governments across the country to execute Employment First policies in recent years to initiate systems-change efforts aimed at assuring CIE as the preferred outcome of publicly-funded services to people with significant disabilities. However, progress requires substantial changes in policy implementation, practice evolution, payment methodologies, and performance measurement. When state governments continue to drive financial resources into maintaining outdated segregated day and work models, true systems change will be limited.

At an individual level, while community engagement is another key aspect of independent living, reliance on community participation must not be seen as a substitute for pursuing and achieving CIE. Employment should be an expected life activity for individuals with significant disabilities in the person-centered planning and self-determination processes, and public policy and systems should presume that all individuals are capable of achieving CIE. 

TASH believes public policy and practice should encompass the following features of employment for all people with significant disabilities:

  • Discovery: Individuals with disabilities should have access to supports that help them prepare for the workforce by identifying their goals and preferences, highlighting their skillset, experiences and strengths, and reducing any gaps or deficits that could preclude their entry into the generic workforce.
  • Education:  Employment should be an expected outcome of the educational process for students with significant disabilities of both high school and post-secondary educational settings. Educational settings should provide information, pre-employment transition services, ongoing educational supports and work-based learning experiences to all students, including students with significant disabilities, with a goal of assuring employment experiences as part of the educational process and instilling a value on the importance of a working life.
  • Customization and Choice: Job seekers should be offered access to a customized process that allows for a negotiated relationship with the employer, focusing on the discrete contributions of the individual in relation to specific needs of the employer. Job selection and the duration of any job must be based on the choice of the individual.
  • Integration:  Employment of people with disabilities, including those with the most significant support needs, must be in regular employment settings within the generic workforce, where individuals with disabilities work alongside people without disabilities. Frequent and ongoing interactions and the development of relationships with coworkers must be assured.
  • Employer/employee relationship. The employer of record should be a community business that is fully separate from and unaffiliated with any business or organization that provides state or federally funded supports that assist the person to acquire or maintain employment. This explicitly includes access to the opportunities including benefits and protections that accrue in an employer/employee relationship, and a conflict-free source of support for employment outcomes.
  • Income and benefits: Employment must result in competitive wages above the federal and state minimum wage and commensurate with and inclusive of benefits comparable to co-workers without disabilities performing similar work.
  • Control of resources: People with disabilities and those they choose to support them should be given the option of controlling and directing the funding and resources allocated on their behalf for employment.
  • Ongoing career advancement: Employment for persons with disabilities, including those with the most significant support needs, must be viewed as careers that evolve over time, driven by the individual’s interests where positive job changes and advancement occur with access to higher pay, greater responsibility and variety, and better working conditions that meet personal needs.
  • Individualized and natural supports: The assistance and support provided persons with significant disabilities should be individualized according to their conditions for success, their expressed needs, and their abilities. The supports provided should first maximize natural features of support provided by personnel in the workplace, and then be supplemented only as needed by publicly-financed supports.
  • Funding:  Funding for “day” services at the federal, state and local levels should be directed towards CIE as the first and preferred important outcome for individuals with significant disabilities. Funding for community participation, recreation and other non-work outcomes should be designed around each individual to promote employment, as well as accommodate and support the work routines of the individual.
  • Business ownership: For those individuals with significant disabilities who wish to own their own business, access to funding, services and supports should be provided in a manner similar to that of wage employment.
  • Equal access:  People with the greatest support needs must be given high priority for employment supports.

Policy Recommendations

Promote legislation aimed at improving Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) options for job-seekers with significant disabilities.

  • Investments in Employment First Systems-Change and Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment:  Passage of legislation to propel significant federal investment in state systems-change efforts, capacity building activities to develop high-quality, expanded options for customized employment strategies and ongoing individualized supported employment services; and provider transformation efforts to reduce the reliance on facility-based congregate day and work services and increase the capacity of providers to offer supports that help individuals with disabilities pursue, secure, and sustain CIE.
  • Elimination of 14(c):  Repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and  immediately prohibit the use of subminimum wages.
  • WIOA:  Preserve the definition for CIE and the components outlined in Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Push for additional Congressional pressure on RSA to reinforce the strengthening of the definition of CIE, exclusion of facility-based congregate sheltered work as a VR service, tightening of enforcement measures related to Section 511, and assuring access to high-quality pre-Employment and Training Services (pre-ETS).
  • AbilityOne:  Enact significant reformation of the AbilityOne program via statutory updates that embed recommendations of the Section 898 Panel and the 2016 WIOA Advisory Committee to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID) Report.
  • Other disability employment bills: Support other legislative initiatives aimed at encouraging employers to hire people with disabilities.
  • Expand Medicaid-funded HCBS to Support CIE Outcomes: Support legislative initiatives aimed at expanding HCBS as a mandated, required offering of all state Medicaid programs, with a focus on CIE, benefits planning and financial literacy/capability, and addressing barriers to CIE within SSI and SSDI.
  • Higher education legislation:  Ensure the Higher Education Act is amended to
    • Include opportunities for students with disabilities, including Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID).
    • Substitute “gainful employment” with “competitive integrated employment” in the definition of “comprehensive transition and postsecondary program for students with intellectual disabilities.”
    • Authorize and fund the creation of a new accrediting agency to accredit comprehensive transition and postsecondary programs.
    • Authorize and fund pilot programs for disability service offices to provide services for students with all disabilities beyond the minimum accommodations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Federally-funded Apprenticeships: Advocate that the National Apprenticeship Act identify and address barriers to participation in apprenticeships by youth and adults with ID/DD and other significant disabilities and include and prioritize the implementation of evidence-based models for such individuals to meaningfully participate in apprenticeships.
  • Outcome-based reporting for all federal funding sources. Require regular and at least annual reporting on employment participation and outcomes including type of employment, hours worked, and wages for any individual who receives federally funded services for day or employment supports, with data made public in an annual report and for secondary analysis.
  • IDEA funding to support expanded school-to-work transition models:  Support legislation to increase IDEA funding tied to value-based investments focused on expanding and bringing to scale evidence-based school-work transition models.
  • Socioeconomic Advancement:  Promote legislation aimed at improving the socioeconomic advancement of individuals with significant disabilities through improved financial capability, asset building, and benefits planning.

Promote executive and regulatory action aimed at improving Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) options for job-seekers with significant disabilities

  • Initiate administrative action to place a moratorium on issuance of new 14(c) certificates.
  • Restart implementation of the WIOA Advisory Committee report, including by co-leading an interagency task force on disability employment with DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Programs. Key recommendations of highest interest for the CPSD includes:
    • Braiding/Leveraging of Resources
    • Provider Transformation & Capacity Building
    • Direct Support Professional Capacity Building and Competency Development
    • Enacting a Ticket-to-Work Model for Youth in Transition
    • AbilityOne Reform
  • Improve implementation of IDEA’s transition requirements to incentivize the adoption and implementation of evidence-based strategies that focus on CIE and inclusive higher education outcomes for individuals with the most significant disabilities, and models for sustaining these strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Expand the expectations and requirements of Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSIDs) to prioritize more inclusive models and full student access to all educational and career-development resources available to other students without disabilities. 
  • Fund the development and dissemination of resources and strategies to use in developing student learning outcomes in all areas (academic, career/technical, and independent living) for students in Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs (CTPs) for students with intellectual disability.
  • Expand opportunities for career training, experience and skills development through workforce innovation funding and scale evidence-based strategies previously invested in by the agency through the workforce system’s career pathways infrastructure to focus more intentionally on supporting individuals with disabilities regardless of whether they are eligible for VR services. 
  • Work with stakeholders on developing alternative glide-paths for individuals with the most significant disabilities to pursue careers in high-growth industries.
  • Expand and strengthen federally-funded provider transformation and Employment First initiatives, with a focus on building the capacity of direct support professionals and community rehabilitation providers to transition away from congregate facility-based day models to focusing solely on providing individualized, integrated services related to CIE and socioeconomic advancement of individuals with the most significant disabilities.
  • Reinstate DOJ’s Olmstead Guidance related to state’s employment systems, modeled off of the guidance issued in October of 2016.
  • Bring additional Olmstead enforcement actions related to states’ over-reliance on segregated employment and day services and to expand opportunities for CIE.
  • Continue to prioritize policy efforts to eliminate section 14(c) of the FLSA and AbilityOne overhaul.
  • Include significant, targeted resources in any federal infrastructure restoration agenda to focus on overhauling HCBS provision to assure sufficient capacity of community-based organizations in offering inclusive, individualized services and supports and reduce their reliance on institutional and facility-based congregate settings.


[1] Public Law 113–128; Title IV, Section 404(5) COMPETITIVE INTEGRATED EMPLOYMENT.—The term ‘competitive integrated employment’ means work that is performed on a full-time or part-time basis (including self-employment)— ‘‘(A) for which an individual— ‘‘(i) is compensated at a rate that— ‘‘(I)(aa) shall be not less than the higher of the rate specified in section 6(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206(a)(1)) or the rate specified in the applicable State or local minimum wage law; and ‘‘(bb) is not less than the customary rate paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by other employees who are not individuals with disabilities, and who are similarly situated in similar occupations by the same employer and who have similar training, experience, and skills; or ‘‘(II) in the case of an individual who is selfemployed, yields an income that is comparable to the income received by other individuals who are not individuals with disabilities, and who are self-employed in similar occupations or on similar tasks and who have similar training, experience, and skills; and ‘‘(ii) is eligible for the level of benefits provided to other employees; ‘‘(B) that is at a location where the employee interacts with other persons who are not individuals with disabilities (not including supervisory personnel or individuals who are providing services to such employee) to the same extent that individuals who are not individuals with disabilities and who are in comparable positions interact with other persons; and (C) that, as appropriate, presents opportunities for advancement that are similar to those for other employees who are not individuals with disabilities and who have similar positions.’’ https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/PLAWc-113publ128/pdf/PLAW-113publ128.pdf

[2] Lindsay S, Cagliostro E, Albarico M, Mortaji N, Karon L. A Systematic Review of the Benefits of Hiring People with Disabilities. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. 2018 Dec; 28(4): 634-655. doi: 10.1007/s10926-018-9756-z. PMID: 29392591.

[3] Cimera, R.E. (2011). Supported versus sheltered employment: cumulative costs, hours worked, and wages earned. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 35, 85-92. Cimera, R.E. (2008). The cost-trends of supported versus sheltered employment. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 28, 15-20. Cimera, R.E. (2009). Supported employment’s cost-efficiency to taxpayers: 2002 to 2007. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 34, 13-20. Cimera RE. (2010). The national cost-efficiency of supported employees with intellectual disabilities: 2002 to 2007. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 115, 19-29.

[4] Winsor, J. et.al. (2019) StateData: The National Report on Employment Services and Outcomes Through 2017. https://www.statedata.info/sites/statedata.info/files/files/bluebook2019_Final.pdf

[5] As defined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (P.L. 113-128, Title IV, Section 404(7)), the term ‘customized employment’ means competitive integrated employment, for an individual with a significant disability, that is based on an individualized determination of the strengths, needs, and interests of the individual with a significant disability, is designed to meet the specific abilities of the individual with a significant disability and the business needs of the employer, and is carried out through flexible strategies, such as— ‘‘(A) job exploration by the individual; ‘‘(B) working with an employer to facilitate placement, including— ‘‘(i) customizing a job description based on current employer needs or on previously unidentified and unmet employer needs; ‘‘(ii) developing a set of job duties, a work schedule and job arrangement, and specifics of supervision (including performance evaluation and review), and determining a job location; ‘‘(iii) representation by a professional chosen by the individual, or self-representation of the individual, in working with an employer to facilitate placement; and ‘‘(iv) providing services and supports at the job location.’’ Retrieved at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/PLAW-113publ128/pdf/PLAW-113publ128.pdf

[6] As defined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (P.L. 113-128, Title IV, Section 404(38)), the term ‘supported employment’ means competitive integrated employment, including customized employment, or employment in an integrated work setting in which individuals are working on a short-term basis toward competitive integrated employment, that is individualized and customized consistent with the strengths, abilities, interests, and informed choice of the individuals involved, for individuals with the most significant disabilities— ‘‘(A)(i) for whom competitive integrated employment has not historically occurred; or ‘‘(ii) for whom competitive integrated employment has been interrupted or intermittent as a result of a significant disability; and ‘‘(B) who, because of the nature and severity of their disability, need intensive supported employment services and extended services after the transition described in paragraph (13)(C), in order to perform the work involved. ‘‘(39) SUPPORTED EMPLOYMENT SERVICES.—The term ‘supported employment services’ means ongoing support services, including customized employment, needed to support and maintain an individual with a most significant disability in supported employment, that— ‘‘(A) are provided singly or in combination and are organized and made available in such a way as to assist an eligible individual to achieve competitive integrated employment; ‘‘(B) are based on a determination of the needs of an eligible individual, as specified in an individualized plan for employment; and ‘‘(C) are provided by the designated State unit for a period of not more than 24 months, except that period may be extended, if necessary, in order to achieve the employment outcome identified in the individualized plan for employment.’’; (23) in paragraph (41), as redesignated by paragraph (17), by striking ‘‘as defined in section 101 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998’’ and inserting ‘‘as defined in section 3 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.