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LEAD Center - Who We Are

December 21, 2012

The LEAD Center – formally known as the National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities (LEAD) – is a collaborative of disability, workforce and economic empowerment organizations dedicated to advancing sustainable individual and systems level change to improve competitive, integrated employment and economic self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities.

Led by National Disability Institute with funding through a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office on Disability Employment Policy, the LEAD Center brings together a range of organizations, thought leaders and best-practice innovators to expand employment, policy, leadership and economic advancement opportunities for people with disabilities. The LEAD Center will provide training and technical assistance, policy research and recommendations as well as demonstration projects designed to break down silos in existing systems, processes and practices and foster wider understanding, adoption and integration of next-generation employment practices in both the public and private sector.

A unique feature of the LEAD Center is its executive leadership – a team that includes individuals with disabilities working side by side with leaders without disabilities fueled by a shared passion to accomplish the LEAD Center’s mission.  As a result, the LEAD Center is not only working on behalf of adults with disabilities, but also incorporating the vision and experience of staff with disabilities to gain insight beyond the perception of what people with disabilities “need” to ensuring the actual “voice of disability” is represented first-hand in every facet of the LEAD Center and its activities.

LEAD Center initiatives for Year One will focus on:

·         Advancing effective participation for people with disabilities in the workforce development system,

·         Expanding what is current state of practice that connects customized and self-employment results with the America’s Job Center system through the bundling and braiding of resources,

·         Improving knowledge about Return-to-Work and Retention strategies for the mature worker based on employer practices,

·         Increasing the connections between employment and economic advancement goals through services and supports available through the American Job Center network.

With four key teams – Training & Technical Assistance (TA), Demonstrations & Innovations, Public Policy and Communications – the LEAD Center will undertake a robust agenda in its first year, including:

·         Working with the TASH Collaborative to focus training and TA on group discovery, customized and self-employment, and to improve system collaboration to support the bundling and braiding of resources (learn more in article below);

·         Building on National Disability Institute’s work on economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities through a partnership with the Cities for Financial Empowerment, a coalition of pioneering municipal governments from across the country that advance innovative financial empowerment initiatives in their cities;

·         Developing training materials for the American Job Center network to improve services to jobseekers, including individuals with hidden disabilities;

·         Piloting three demonstration projects:

o    One with the National Council on Independent Living in collaboration with Centers for Independent Living across the U.S. and the American Job Centers Network to work with jobseekers with disabilities in five (5) pilot sites to assist them in moving through the public workforce system until they secure meaningful employment. (learn more in article below); and

o    A second with the national corporation Costco that focuses on their Return-to-Work and mature worker retention policies and the identification and implementation of workplace recruitment, retention, and flexibility promising practices;

o    A third with selected cities to bring together financial coaching and economic empowerment activities into supports offered by American Job Centers.

·         Pioneering policy priorities regarding Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and long-term employment supports and resources, equal opportunity and access to WIA services and supports, use of performance waivers from states to better serve and support job seekers with disabilities, and Social Security reform options;

·         Providing “rapid response” policy feedback and proposals regarding self-employment, economic empowerment and WIA reauthorization;

·         Launching the initial LEAD Center website – – in the first quarter of 2013, featuring best-practice resources, webinars, news, social media integration, and a robust national calendar of events as well as phased in content including blogs from thought leaders, a resource center with expected outreach to multiple audiences including individuals with disabilities.

·         Reaching out to stakeholders and potential collaborators through e-newsletters, emails, blogs and partner communication.

The LEAD Center has an exciting year ahead and we hope you will be a part of it! Stay connected with our work and directly with the LEAD Center by signing up to receive this, our quarterly newsletter, in your inbox.

We look forward to working with you and sharing information as the LEAD Center joins forces with the U.S. Department of Labor Office on Disability Employment Policy in our collaboration to provide training and technical assistance, implement demonstration projects to discover effective employer practices, facilitate a first-of-its kind pilot project with Centers for Independent Living in association with American Job Centers and jobseekers with disabilities, develop policy recommendations to expand employment opportunities and enhance economic advancement and self sufficiency of individual with disabilities.