Friday, April 30, 2010

Partner Spotlight: Karen McCulloh

Karen McCulloh is a recognized leader in the field of disability employment. As a registered nurse who found difficulty in regaining employment after her disability, she established her own consulting firm and a new field of nursing – Community Health Disability Education.

Ms. McCulloh’s drive and passion led to her position as the Executive Director of disabilityworks, an Illinois statewide initiative targeted to increasing the employment of people with disabilities and to “inspire sound employer-to-employee relationships.”

In her tremendous career, Karen has served as a Department of Labor federal appointee, as the Chair of the Disability Subcommittee of the National Job Corps Advisory Committee and on President Obama’s transition team. The NTAR Leadership Center is proud to have Karen on our Technical Assistance Advisory Panel.

- Listen to the podcast with Karen McCulloh
- Read a transcript of the podcast

Thursday, April 29, 2010

State Spotlight: District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has been working to create a strong and sustaining “Employment Alliance” to promote better employment outcomes for DC residents with disabilities. Under the leadership of Judith Heumann, the Director of the Department on Disability Services (DDS), the District has been busy bringing together leaders in workforce development, economic development, the business community, and disability organizations to establish better linkages for residents with disabilities to jobs available in the federal government, with federal contractors, and in high-growth industries in the area such as health care, hospitality, and professional services.

To this end, District officials are actively engaged in a number of initiatives, including
  1. Creating a “community of excellence in customized employment” designed to build the capacity of DC government and private provider staff to effectively use customized employment practices,
  2. Sponsoring a Project Search model for transitioning youth in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor and, soon, other federal agencies,
  3. Enhancing collaborations with local employers through a partnership with the District of Columbia's Business Leadership Network,
  4. Strengthening its labor market "intelligence" through development of a process to better educate vocational rehabilitation counselors and others on how to access and use Labor Market Information, and
  5. Putting in place new strategies to increase the number of training and ”to work” options available to residents such as internships, through sector-based job training and/or small business development.

Listen to the audio podcast interview with Judith Heumann, Director of the District of Columbia’s Department on Disability Services

Read the transcript of the interview

View a PowerPoint presentation about Project Search, the District's school-to-career project for youth with disabilities, and a collaborative program with the U.S. Department of Labor. This program is the first of its kind in the federal government.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Life at Rutgers

This is a guest post from Junior Rutgers University Student and NTAR Leadership Center Intern Radhiya Abdul-Raheem

In this academic school year, I’ve turned over a new leaf. I’ll admit that being the youngest in my family I’ve gotten used to having my hand extended, waiting for my wants and needs to be handed to me. I could not help it. Thankfully, I wasn’t spoiled to the extent where I wouldn’t reach the point in my life where I am today.

This school year has brought a relentless characteristic out of me, the quality of leadership. From experience, I’ve learned that possessing the quality of leadership leaves me no room to be spoon-fed. I have taken on new responsibilities since the start of the fall semester. After seeing a friend of mine struggle to keep a student-run publication afloat as editor-and-chief, I decided to extend my position as photographer of the newspaper to co-editor and treasurer. I did this mostly because I hated to witness a paper with such a rich history fall below the radar. I also was faced with a dilemma on campus involving the transportation bus system. Without getting into great detail, I was put in the position where the revised bus route was hindering my wheelchair access to the bus stop across the street from my on campus apartment. I, once again, took the courage to actually project my concerns, something I usually would leave for others to do for me. After making my rights and concerns known to administrators and after getting my peers involved, I got want I wanted, which was equal access to the campus bus that is meant for the use of all Rutgers students. After reaping the fruits of my labor, I felt proud and I felt visible. For those who have been overlooked know very well how that was victorious for me. These accomplishments come at the eve of another stepping stone.

I was interested in interning at NTAR because it is dedicated to increasing the self-reliance of persons with disabilities. I was intrigued at the fact that I can take part in the self-reliance of others such as myself who may find it hard to be truly independent in an imperfect society that is not fully prepared for them. Having this position has allowed me to further exercise the leader inside of me that I have suppressed for so long (and it continues to be a work in progress). My leadership has taught me not to be afraid to make sure my voice is heard. Fittingly, this is the focus of NTAR’s mission.

Before my time at NTAR is concluded I hope to gain a ruthless drive for bettering the lives of people with disabilities.

Friday, April 16, 2010


This is a guest post from Elaine Katz, Vice President of Grant Programs and Special Initiatives, Kessler Foundation

Ah springtime! Its arrival heralds everything new. But the promise of renewal is quickly tempered by the realities of our “new normal”, diminished federal and state budgets for July implementation and a scarcity of private funding.

Collaborations, agreements between two or more organizations to work together, are a solution for leveraging dollars within tight budgets. The real benefit is extending public or private dollars to capitalize on economies of scale and avoiding duplication of services. Typically used in projects that are ambitious, such as those serving a large geographic area and target population, collaborations can also be effective for smaller organizations, with proper planning.

Although simple in concept, forming a successful collaboration is difficult. Making sure it works is even harder. Picking a project and writing a detailed strategic game plan can be accomplished rather competently and quickly by most organizations. Choosing partners isn’t too difficult either. Most organizations can readily select partners from a known pool of agencies. Often it’s figuring out how to work effectively together that’s the tricky part.

As a first step, it’s best to opt for a formal “MOU”, a written memo of understanding among the partners, such as the formal agreement the National Organization on Disabilities (NOD) has with the US Army for their Army Wounded Warriors (AW2) Careers Demonstration Project. Partner cash commitments, in-kind contributions, organizational responsibilities, and/or identifying sources of additional funding, are just some of the details that must be clearly delineated. All project collaborators need to determine in advance their role in project outcomes and set rules on how to deal with non-performance. In this example, NOD began with the concept of linking soldiers with significant disabilities to employment and other related services upon returning to their local communities, following medical discharge. Recognizing the value of this one-to-one approach, the US Army signed a memo of understanding with NOD, enabling NOD’s Career Specialists to partner with the army’s AW2 advocates. Using seed funding from Kessler Foundation, NOD began reaching out to national and local funding partners in Texas, Colorado and North Carolina, sites for the initial pilot projects. A partnership was also initiated with the Economic Mobility Corporation to provide data and evaluation services.

Establishing new project collaborations based on verbal commitments can also be successful, especially if partners have previously worked together. Cornell University’s Disability and Employment Institute recently joined with the New Jersey Society of Human Resource Managers (NJSHRM) to create a new collaborative model for employers and social service providers aimed at increasing employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities, with funding from Kessler Foundation. Each organization held defined roles – NJSHRM organized the workshops for its members throughout New Jersey, while Cornell staff facilitated the program and designed online tutorials. Additional community partners helped coordinate meetings for job development professionals at local social service agencies. In this case, Cornell and NJSHRM successfully educated human resource managers and non-profit professionals. On the other hand, verbal agreements are the easiest to fall apart, especially when one partner does not complete or fulfill agreed upon tasks.

As reduced public and private funding continue to affect the organizational budgets, forming collaborations can be a valuable tool. With a little creativity and careful planning, collaboration can help your organization create new programs or sustain current projects.