On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Zero Project announced The Vermont Transition and Post-Secondary Education Initiative as a winner of their Innovative Public Policies award.
The Vermont Transition and Post-Secondary Education Initiative is a collaborative effort between organizations throughout the state including the Developmental Disability Services Division (DDSD), the Agency of Education, and post-secondary organizations including CDCI’s Think College Vermont. It promotes college education and industry-based career training for transition-age youth with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities and promotes access to lifelong learning for adults.
Vermont has been recognized for its inclusive and innovative policies in disability services and employment for decades, including the closure of its state institution for people with developmental disabilities in 1993 and all sheltered workshops less than 10 years later. After hearing CDCI’s Dr. Bryan Dague testify in Washington D.C. in 2019 and a field visit to Vermont earlier this year, the US Commission on Civil Rights recommended repealing the part of federal law permitting employers to pay a sub-minimum wage to employees with disabilities.
Since closing sheltered workshops, Vermont has had many programs that provide supports and opportunities for education, vocational training, and continuing education, but the subtle differences between them were often confusing to students, families, and schools. In 2013, the Vermont Post-Secondary Education Consortium Initiative was created to unify missions and service commonalities. This helped to launch an integrated approach and the ability to share resources and knowledge. Members include Think College Vermont, SUCCEED, College Steps Program, Project SEARCH Vermont, Global Campuses Foundation, and Mansfield Hall.
The Zero Project supports the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of the United Nations and to work for a world without barriers. The approach of the Zero Project is to research and share Innovative Practice and Policies worldwide by engaging with a worldwide cross-sectoral network of innovators, decision-makers, and opinion leaders. This is the third time Vermont Supported Employment has been recognized by the Zero Project, being short-listed in 2019 and winning a 2017 innovative policy award for state-wide, long-term inclusion in the open labor market.