Universal Access Strategies Highlighted at 2014 NAWDP Conference
Many job seekers who face challenges in getting and keeping jobs often find their way to their local American Job Center (AJC). This May, in response to requests for information on strategies for intake and orientation to accommodate a diverse range of job seekers, LEAD Center’s Rebecca Salon, Project Director, and Elizabeth Jennings, Assistant Project Director, along with Miranda Kennedy, Director of Training for the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), presented at the 2014 annual conference of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP).
The session highlighted approaches to service delivery that, by design, open doors to people who face significant barriers to employment but ultimately benefit everyone. The universal design approaches are of special importance during initial contacts with people who may need accommodations to fully access services. Presenters engaged the audience in discussions of resources, approaches, strategies and products that enhance communication with and support to people with disabilities, as well as others with diverse cultural backgrounds and/or limited literacy or limited English proficiency, to assist them during intake and orientation processes, both at AJCs and through partnerships.
Participants from the audience offered examples of positive practices in which they engage, in addition to sharing situations with which they struggle. LEAD Center staff described universal design strategies that can be applied by AJC staff starting with their earliest interactions. This included a discussion of discovery and group discovery processes, components of customized employment that provide alternate, strength-based assessments which can be completed at an AJC or through AJC partners. Miranda Kennedy offered information about the Disability and Employment Community of Practice website, an AJC Access Guide and a 30-Second Training Series designed for AJCs.
This highly interactive session was followed the next day by a focus group, facilitated by LEAD Center staff, to learn more about the promising practices being implemented at AJCs and the challenges they face in successfully serving job seekers with disabilities.