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Post-Secondary Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 4716 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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According to the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual survey conducted by the US Census Bureau, the overall percentage of people with a physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disability in the US in 2015 was 12.6% (40 million people). Disability is a part of the human condition with almost every person having the experience of a temporary of permanent impairment. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) are identified as issues in mental or physical functioning that onset in individuals before the age of 22 and persist with an indefinite duration (LIFEDesigns, 2018). Disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, and down syndrome have been known to inhibit inclusion of individuals with IDDs in post-secondary education and the labor force. People with IDDs are not in themselves a consistent group, and in the education system are often included with non-traditional students, underrepresented groups or those with special learning needs in policies, reports and literature; with in the labor force are seen to invoke negative employer attitudes that present as potential barriers to employment opportunities (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 69; Nota, Santilli, Ginevra, & Soresi, 2013, p. 511). Responses to disability have changed from the decade’s old humans right issue fight, yet inclusion of individuals with IDDs are not always visible.

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As Hart and colleagues explain graduating from high school is essentially a stressful yet thrilling experience for almost all students and their families. Yet when students with (IDD) consider what will happen next, the possibility of post-secondary higher education and employment are still not usually encouraged as a viable option (Hart et al., 2006). Further, in 2009, Lysaght and colleagues explain that employment is one of the central roles to enhancing the physical and mental health of all –idea that remains true. When individuals with IDD are offered post-secondary opportunities, they begin to see themselves as more similar instead of different from their peers without disabilities. Partaking in campus life, classes, or choosing to enter the workforce, helps those IDD circumnavigating a world of high expectations and develop the skills needed for successful adult life (Hart et al., 2006). When we keep college and employment in the mix of possibilities for individuals with IDD, it takes the stance that we as people believe in the possibility of their success.

The purpose of this review is to exam literature available within the last ten years regarding the inclusion of people with disabilities in post-secondary higher education and employment. Receiving a college education and/or entering the workforce should be an exhilarating time in an individual’s life– not only for those without IDDs but for those with. Self-advocacy, self-confidence, academic and personal skill-building, hired engagement, and independence are just some of the areas that postsecondary education and employment offer to all individuals, especially those with IDD (Hart et al., 2006).

The Scope

Inclusion involves considering that all people, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or health care needs, have the right to be respected and appreciated as valuable members of their communities (Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI), 2018). Inclusion further considers that all people have the right to participate in recreational activities in neighborhood settings, attend general education classes with peers from preschool through college and continuing education, and work at jobs in the community that pay a competitive wage and have careers that use their capacities to the fullest (ICI, 2018). Inclusion is mean to counter stigma, discrimination, and prejudices and give all members of society the same fundamental rights to undertake valued social roles and become valued equal members of society (Corby et al., 2018, p. 71).

In a 2008 research conducted by Vanderbilt University’s Carolyn Hughes, it has been brought into perspective how numerous studies revealed that employment, education, postsecondary training rates, and community participation of individuals with IDD after leaving high school were still at their lowest compared to their peers without disabilities (Hughes, 2008).  As of 2017, only 18.7% of persons with disabilities reported being employed and those without a disability was 65.7% (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018). In 2008, only 21% of adults with severe disabilities reported being employed (full time or part-time) and with no apparent change in 2017, workers with a disability were more likely only to be employed part-time than those with no disability (Hughes, 2008; United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS), 2018). Among workers with a disability, 32 percent usually worked part time in 2017, compared with 17 percent of those without a disability (USBLS, 2018). A slightly larger proportion of workers with a disability worked part-time for economic reasons than those without a disability (5 percent versus 3 percent) (USBLS, 2018). These individuals were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs (USBLS, 2018).

From an education standpoint in 2008, less than 40% of individuals with IDD had access to higher education compared to almost 80% for others, a statistic that currently still remains true (Hughes, 2008; Raynor et al., 2013). Currently, persons with a disability are less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree and higher than those with no disability (USBLS, 2018).  Among both groups, those who have completed higher levels of education are more likely to be employed than those with less education (USBLS, 2018).  Across all levels of education in 2017, persons with a disability were much less likely to be employed than were their counterparts with no disability (USBLS, 2018). 

These adverse outcomes have continued through the years although there have been more than 25 years of legislation enacted to help those with IDD transition from high school to adult life (Hughes, 2008). It is made evident and clear, through research that there still remains a need to shift towards participation in the general education curriculum, systematic transition planning, employment preparation, instruction in community settings in efforts to prepare individuals with IDD to live independent (as possible), fulling lives (McDonnell, Hardman, & McDonnell, 2010). Moreover, statistics like these prove it highly unlikely that individuals with IDDs feel including before experiencing genuine interaction with typical students in and out a classroom setting or with co-workers in a work environment (Rickson, & Warren, 2017).

A 2018 article by Zhang, Grenwelge, & Petcu further suggests, that although an increasing number of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have participated in various formats of postsecondary education, the population remains severely underserved. Moreover, those who receive postsecondary education are sometimes just gaining a college experience or learning functional skills on college campuses yet are not presented with inclusive employment opportunities after graduation (Zhang, Grenwelge, & Petcu, 2018). It should be noted that individuals with IDD can complete postsecondary education programs that are focused on employment outcomes and start a meaningful and successful professional career (Zhang et al., 2018).

Education, Employment, and policy

According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Right, Article 23: Everyone has the right to work without any discrimination; with rights to equal pay for equal work. Moreover, Article 23 states that just and favorable compensation is a right for all individuals to ensure themselves and family live lives that are worthy of human dignity supported by social protection (United Nations, 2018). Article 26 covers all individuals’ rights to education, stating that education is to be free in elementary and fundamental stages (United Nations, 2018). Moreover, higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit; developing full aspects of human personality and strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms (United Nations, 2018).  Both of these rights are clearly articulated and extend to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in efforts to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and advances the peace maintenance activities of the United Nations (United Nations, 2018). In 2005, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) produced guidelines for inclusion that highlighted the importance of it and the effects of exclusion.

Similarly, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment; local and state government services; public accommodations, telecommunications; and transportation, against a qualified individual with a disability (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2005). Enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and local and state civil rights enforcement agencies, when policies are not upheld the effects can be seen throughout the political, economic, social, and cultural life of society and on individuals with IDDs who are being excluded because of their disability (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 71).

Society urges productivity describing it as a central and innate element of human existence and a major contributor to health, yet for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, numerous challenges exist in securing satisfying and productive societal roles (Lysaght, Oulette-Kuntz, & Morrison, 2009). 

Moreover, instances of employment have been reported to improve mental health and self-esteem whereas unemployment leads to the reverse (Lysaght et al., 2009). Unemployment, which is when an individual who does not have a job, is available for work and is actively looking for a job, seemingly is a more serious threat to mental health than actual physical disability or illness (Lysaght et al., 2009).  Productive activity, which includes but is not limited to employment, is seen as a buffer against emotional distress, yet the 2017 unemployment rate for persons with a disability in 2017 was more than twice (9.2 %) that of those with no disability (4.2 percent) (USBLS, 2018).   

Reasons for Inclusion

As noted in 2017 by Rickson & Warren, to simply and encourage the support of social participation for those with diverse needs will not change the barriers attitudes create and contribute to disability (Rickson, & Warren, 2017). When placed in a school/campus setting or working alongside; interacting with individuals who have IDDs, people would learn more about the value of including them. Sadly, there still is a need to create and encourage quality time spent together by individuals with diverse backgrounds to develop and share experiences (Rickson, & Warren, 2017).

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For almost forty years, U.S. policy has steadily advanced the idea of presumed employability for all individuals with IDD, yet businesses are unwilling to hire this untapped population of diverse individuals in efforts to even fill positions that are often difficult to fill (Martinez, 2013; Ladew, & Raymond, 2012). Those with the most significant disabilities, if capable should be employed in integrated jobs with appropriate pay that is at or above the minimum wage (Martinez, 2013). Given that postsecondary education can help individuals obtain employment and higher-level occupations, the need for individuals with disabilities to participate in postsecondary education is also clear (Cheatham et al., 2013).

Students with IDDs are accessing postsecondary education at exponential rates within the U.S. in greater numbers than ever before (Moore & Schelling, 2015, p. 130; Shogren, 2018). Seemingly a key factor to this is an individual with IDD’s self-determination (Shogren, 2018). Although research still falls short in this area, inclusion of individuals in post-secondary education seems to still issue in need of adjustment. Twenty-one percent of youth with disabilities reported that they enrolled in postsecondary education within four years of leaving high school, compared to 41% of youth without disabilities (White, 2015). Of those students with disabilities who attend college, 60% enroll at community colleges (White, 2015). The inclusion of all individuals with IDD would help to get the college-going rates of students with disabilities equal or exceed those of their peers without disabilities (White, 2015).

If we as a society help send the message of willingness to include while individuals with IDD are still young, we help build their self-esteem, determination and increase their chances of prosocial outcomes– many cases show that these factors are predictors of success in postsecondary education for students IDD (Shogren, 2018). 

A study performed at the College of New Jersey investigated the experiences of 12 teachers in training who serviced 6 adults with IDD in their classrooms (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 74). The results of this study identified that by just having these individuals in their school, training setting, the teachers in training not only recognized improvements of interaction within their classrooms as a whole, but they noticed improvements in their own ideas of inclusion (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 74). Moreover, the study helped to change their attitudes towards individuals with IDD which in turn should potentially aide in them practicing inclusive habits in the future as educators– helping them to practice all-encompassing inclusion for everyone and not just for the ones with IDDs (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 74).

Studies show that when individuals with IDD are integrated and included into school and work environments, they feel more accepted, more confident, and have increased social networks and supports, rendering them capable of course and job description complete (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 74). Policies and programs that support students with disabilities who enroll in post-secondary education institutions hold promise to increase positive attitudes held by college students toward the inclusion of students with IDD. If ever there was reservations on behalf of policymakers, higher education instructors, and administrators at the postsecondary level of inclusion efforts, findings support the continued expansion programs and services for students with IDD (Griffin et al., 2012).

Barriers to Inclusion

Inequities at life opportunities for individuals with IDD have been well documented throughout history (Sheppard-Jones, 2015). Individuals with IDDs seemingly have to overcome both their disability and academic and/or employment demands while simultaneously having to manage and advocate for their own access to services, teachings, and learning accommodations (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 75). Embedded in this barrier is also the potential for self-inflicted barriers if the individuals with an IDD has had a previous bad experience in trying to advocate for themselves or lacks the confidence to do so (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 75).

Social barriers may also exist when individuals with IDD try and enter the workforce or pursue post-secondary education.  For instance, there is still a need for post-secondary education programs on college or university campuses to become more inclusive (Jones et al., 2016). Faculty members continuously are asking for strategies and educational practices to inform them on how best to teach diverse student bodies which include individuals with IDD (Jones et al., 2016). This also sheds light to the barrier of training. There is a lack of training on how peers and professionals can become effectively culturally competent in their interactions and work in tandem with individuals who have IDDs. Instead, what often tends to occurs is individuals regard inclusion as a process of needing to lower standards or in reverse, misinterpret the idea of equality that they make it difficult to provide accommodations for individuals with IDDs (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 75).

Even when policies are in place for the inclusion of individuals with IDDs oppressive practices still become prevalent occurrences. Challenges in school and employment setting involve a lack of access to supports surrounding the different needs of individuals with IDD Individuals with IDDs can have significant variation in the frequency and types of supports they need to be offered (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 79). While all individuals, in particular students, need support during times of education and training, individuals with IDD may need different or more focused supports and approaches to program design or workplace environmental design (Corby, Cousins, & Slevin, 2012, p. 79).

Aside from issues of school and work culture, funding has also presented as an issue against the proper inclusion of individuals with IDD into society. Despite the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) mandate, four times more federal funding was still being directed towards instances of segregated, sheltered employment instead of supported employment and inclusion (Hughes, 2008). The numbers of people on waiting lists for employment and community services in some states were exceeding 74,000, despite repeated demonstrations that individuals with IDD can be successfully employed (Hughes, 2008). There was also a persistent unwillingness to support integrated employment and post-secondary higher education learning programs mandated by policymakers, legislators, and others.

Recommendations for Future Research

Additionally, future research must continue to investigate and identify existing, emerging, and new interventions that promote the exposure of students and adults with IDD to work experiences and paid work. In particular, it is important to examine the features of school-provided, supported employment-related services and how effectively they are incorporated into the curriculum and into transition services. It is important for future research to be able to answer What can schools do to improve preparation for the transition to employment? How effective are different employment-related interventions in achieving employment outcomes in school and in adulthood? (Nord et al., 2013). Future research would also benefit from a more in-depth understanding of the connectedness of vocational rehabilitation service delivery to better articulate the facilitators of employment outcomes (Nord & Hepperlen, 2016).

Final Comments

Involvement in productivity roles such as work, volunteerism, and personal projects plays a central role in the lives of most adults and is associated with enhanced physical and mental health (Lysaght et al., 2009). Researched literature has revealed that’s the development of public policy should be based on dignity, respect, equity, equality, inclusion (i.e., educational and social), as well as on improving living conditions (e.g., health, education and employment). Public policies should attend to the gap between citizens, promoting changes in society and investing in supports to assure that people with IDD contribute with their talents to the community. The essential point is that policies should encourage a monitoring mechanism to guarantee accountability for the appropriate respect of all human rights. Schippers (2010) stated that an inclusive society implies space and opportunities for everyone optimizing their talents, qualities and living experience. If the quality of life scores were collected on a widespread source, the society could change, increasing opportunities and recognizing the value of people with IDD (Simões, & Santos, 2016).


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