AtWork! is one of four exemplary nonprofit organizations selected nationwide to provide materials and expertise in the development of a toolkit to transform sheltered workshops to Employment First Providers of integrated community employment. The toolkit is a project of ThinkWork! at the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Researchers are currently conducting on-site visits and interviews, gathering information for the toolkit.
The two day study will occur on September 20 and 21 at AtWork!’s corporate office in Bellevue, where a team of researchers with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Advancing Employment for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at the ICI will interview AtWork! stakeholders regarding their experience during the transformation process. Researchers will glean firsthand knowledge of the strategies implemented; and the potential challenges and opportunities of successful transformations to integrated employment.
Conclusions of the findings gathered from AtWork! and other agencies will be used to develop a toolkit for organizations that want to understand the steps and implications of sheltered workshop transformation. The toolkit will provide guidance for conversion to successful community integrated employment, at or above minimum wage, for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
AtWork! is known amongst peers in the Pacific Northwest as a leader in supported and integrated community employment. AtWork! closed its three sheltered workshops well before government regulations, funding and strong activist advocates made providing sheltered workshop services no longer viable. AtWork! gets jobs for people who have been judged as unemployable in the past through the use of assistive technology and state-of-the-art customized employment techniques.
AtWork! is excited for this opportunity with ICI and looking forward to contributing to the study to aid in the nationwide transformation of organizations that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The toolkit has the potential to transform thousands of individual lives through the power of community employment and workplace inclusion.