Archive of ‘Employment’ category

The Human Service Workforce Crisis in Massachusetts


Hello, my name is Cheryl Dolan and I work in human services.

I moved from the UK in 1999, when many humans service agencies could not find staff and went overseas to hire them. We still have this problem today. We need to look at why this is and what we can do to change it.

Why is there a shortage in staff?

  • More people need support and services than before so need more staff
  • Wages are low and not too many ways to get promoted
  • Lack of people who are trained to do the job well

How does this affect people?

  • People have high turnover or unqualified staff working with them
  • People not getting the best care
  • Programs have to close, People  are losing services or are on wait lists
  • Families become stretched and have no help

What are human service agencies doing to address the issue?

  • Looking at how technology can be used to support people and reduce some staffing needs
  • Working with local and federal government to support them by applying initiatives for state employees to human service agencies
  • Looking at how to attract, train, and retain skilled employees.

How can you help fix this?

  • Make your voice heard! Make the people you vote for know you want to see increase in funding for wages
  • Support agencies seeking increased funding to provide higher wages for staff
  • Join advocacy movements like The Caring Force     

"The Caring Force logo"

Additional materials

Who Will Care? The Workforce Crisis

The Caring Force

Boston Herald: Opinion  Workforce Crisis Threatens Community

Chicago Tribune:  Article– Care Worker  Shortage

Fair Wages


Many workers living with a disability receive low pay from their 2 people advocating for fair wagesjobs. There is a law called the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA.  The FLSA helps protect workers from their jobs. Most people do not know that the FLSA has a section called 14 (c).  Section 14 (c) lets jobs pay low wages to people living with disabilities

Many people living with a disability in the United States are paid under $4 an hour.  Workers who are paid low cannot afford to pay rent.  They cannot afford to pay their bills.  They cannot afford to buy the things that they need.

Activists and lawmakers are working together to change the FLSA law by:

  • Fighting for higher pay
  • Fairness in the workplace
  • Better benefits
  • More jobs

The costs in America are going up every year to live here.  People living with disabilities have a right to fair wages

If you would like to know more about the Fair Labor Standards Act, please click below

Many people with disabilities are being paid low wages and its perfectly legal

Employment for Adults with Autism


Jobs.  We each expect to find a job when we are adults. Some people know exactly what they

want to do for a job. Many people try different jobs to find one that fits. For my son with

Autism Spectrum Disorder, (or Autism), a job is more like a hope or idea. He is now an adult.

He has skills that would be useful in different work places. The challenge is to find a work

place that will even let him try to work.

Is he the only person with Autism who is not able to find a job?  I wanted to find out. So, here

is what I learned about employment or jobs, for people with Autism. There are not a lot of

data on this topic. Data are collected for people with disabilities. But data are not often sorted by diagnosis.

This chart shows what I did learn about jobs for young adults with Autism. The chart showsChart of employment of young adults with autism

the employment rates for young adults who

have ever worked after high school. It specifies

rates by category. The rates are learning

disability, 95%, Speech/language impairment,

91%,  Emotional disturbance, 91%, Intellectual

Disability, 74% and Autism, 58%. It confirms

that my son is not alone in being unemployed.

There are companies looking to hire. Dell EMC in Central Massachusetts is

one of them. According to an article in the Worcester Business Journal on May

15, 2017, Dell EMC will have a hiring program. This hiring program will work to bring more

people with Autism into the company. They want to hire people with Autism for their skills.

It is good to read about a company that wants to hire people with Autism. This company needs

very specific skills. We will keep working on developing my son’s skills that might be useful in

future jobs. We will talk with our friends and families about hiring people with Autism. We

hope that there is a work place that will welcome our son in the future.

There is an article that summarizes the existing research about hiring an adult with Autism. (1.)

This article surveyed all the published articles that considered the costs and benefits to society,

to the person with Autism and to the employer. The first finding is that there is not enough

research being done on the costs and benefits to employers. It did find some results showing

that it costs society less to have people with Autism employed rather than not employed.

There are indications that people with Autism are happier and busier if they have jobs. The

hope is that more research will be done in the future. This research may show that it is not too

costly to employ people with Autism. Then, maybe more companies would be willing to

interview, train and hire people with Autism. It would make the hope or dream of a job,

become a real job for my son and his peers.


  1. The Costs and Benefits of Employing an Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

Andrew Jacob, Melissa Scott, Marita Falkmer, Torbjörn Falkmer

PLoS One. 2015; 10(10): e0139896. Published online 2015 Oct 7. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139896

PMCID: PMC4596848 Article PubReader PDF–1.3MCitation


Abilities at work


My name is Scott Janz. I am a Job Coach. I help adults find jobs.

Man standing at work

Disabilities at Work

People with disabilities can work. Disability does not mean not able. I help many adults get hired. People with disabilities take pride in making a change. Jobs are important for all. I believe biases can be broken. Breaking barriers is vital. I help people reach fairness. Everyone deserves the same chance to get a job.           

Strengths at work

  • Hard work ethic
  • Low turnover
  • Increased diversity
  • Inclusion
  • Loyal
  • Productive
  • Consistent
  • Structured

 Bias at work

Bias exists at work for many adults.  Bias can take many forms. Bullying and stigma are examples. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects against bias at work. I work with adults at their jobs. I support their skills. We need to make work fun.

Dressing for an Interview


people attending career dayIt is difficult for people with disabilities to get a job. Only one-third of people with disabilities work full time. Sometimes we forget to care about what we wear to an interview.
I run Our Space Our Place, Inc., an after school and job exploration program for youth who are blind. One goal is to teach students about different jobs.
Each year there is an event called World of Careers. At the event, people who work talk about:

  • The tasks they do every day
  • The subjects they studied
  • How they looked for a job
  • Actions which help them to keep their job.

Why care about how you dress?

An employer talked about interviewing a person for a job. The employer was surprised that:

  • The person had not combed their hair.
  • The person’s clothing was wrinkled and looked as if she had slept in her clothes.

The employer liked the person’s resume. But the employer worried that if the person did not care about her clothing, the person may not care about the job.
Hearing this story, we invited a personal shopper to speak at World of Careers. A personal shopper works at a store and helps shoppers to buy clothing. This personal shopper spoke about dressing for an interview.

What were some of the ideas she shared?

  • Buying clothing for an interview is not expensive
  • Wear clean clothes
  • The clothes should not have wrinkles
  • Wear clean shoes

The Key to Success!



The teenage school years are a great chance for students with disabilities to find jobs they enjoy. However, the focus is often on what the student can’t do and still needs to work on.
Imagine if we:

  • focused on the student’s abilities
  • looked for what student’s CAN do
  • helped students try more new things
  • looked for jobs that match the student’s strengths and interests


I heard a story once about a young man named Ken. He could not move any part of his body. Ken wanted to work. His team thought about what he was good at doing. One friend said, “Ken is really good at sitting still!” Ken’s career was started from that idea. He became a hand model! Now he is able to support himself on the money from his modeling job. This story is a great example of what can happen when we focus on strengths.


The teenage years provide a chance for students to begin jobs and follow their interests. I believe focusing on what people can do instead of what they can’t do during these years is the key to success and happy futures for our students.
For more information please visit:

A Positive Future: How Employment Has Made a Difference


This week we welcome our Guest Blogger, Shelande Laws, a client of The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and employee of a local laundry services company.

Finding the right job

My name is Shelande Laws. I found out about The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) from one of my counselors at the East Boston Counseling Center.
Two women reading a book

I called MRC and made an appointment for orientation. At the orientation, I was told what the MRC program is about. I got a caseworker whose name is Amelia Robbins-Cureau, and we had our first interview. Then I signed up to be a member of the One Stop Career Center. They have workshops to help you look for a job, work on your resume and find the right job for you.

Amelia and I worked together every three weeks on what I needed to accomplish a goal that would get me a job. I went on interviews, but they were not good jobs for me. I got to meet with a job specialist, Drew Ritter, at MRC who helped me look for work and go to job fairs. On my first interview with Drew, , someone came to our meeting looking for employees. I was interviewed for a job as a laundry attendant and I went on an On the Job Evaluation (OJE) for six weeks.

I am proud to say that I was hired in October 2012.

Interview with Shelande

Amelia: What do you like most about your job?

Shelande: I have been able to learn the job easily. Even when things were a little more difficult to learn, like the cash register, I have been able to learn it after a few times. The managers were so impressed with me that they asked me to do more than folding and washing. I also am enjoying having money to spend on things I need.

Amelia: What are you most proud of?

Shelande: I am proud of myself for being in good enough shape for this job. I did volunteer work at The Greater Boston Food Bank in order to get work experience and learn new skills. I am able to use those skills for a paid job.

Amelia: What advice would you give to other job seekers?

Shelande: Put your mind toward what you want to do and work toward it. Don’t give up whether you are trying to get through school, or a job. Even if a job doesn’t exactly match what you thought you would do, you might want to try it anyway. It will help you have money to spend, and be able to afford to live more independently. You will feel better about yourself, and see where you can get in the future.

Amelia: Any final thoughts?

Shelande: I want to give my deepest thanks to The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.Woman sitting in a chair

For additional information on resources for employment, be sure to check out New England INDEX’s Employment Resources Fact Sheet and Employment Support Services / Benefit Programs Fact Sheet .

Building Relationships: A Key to Employment Success


employment-supportYou may have heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to getting good jobs, I believe in the power of relationships. I could never do my job alone; in fact, I had the help of others in finding my own job. My clients are no different – they will need others to help them find new opportunities and support them.

At the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), we form relationships with the people we serve as well as the local community. We do this because we know that it takes a team in order to find a job. We also rely on job seekers to make their own connections through volunteer work, going to community events, joining social clubs and attending job seeking skills groups.

Experience builds confidence

One of the programs I am most excited about in my work at MRC is On-the Job Training (OJT). The OJT is great for people who have the skills and interest in a job, but do not have a lot of work experience. As a counselor, I have worked with consumers who have difficulty communicating their strengths and skills by simply filling out job applications. They may be told that they do not have enough job experience to get hired.

However, if you give the same person a chance to actually perform on the job, they shine. That is why MRC develops relationships with local businesses who want to participate in the OJT program.

A team approach that works

Here’s how it works: As a counselor, I work with the job seeker to prepare to get a certain type of job. We work on a resume, interview skills and the application process. Then, we work with the MRC team to find an employer who is looking to fill a position at their company. If the job seeker gets the job, and the new employer agrees to become a vendor of the Commonwealth, the On-the Job Training period begins.

MRC supports the job seeker and helps pay the company for the training period. At the end of the training period if everyone is satisfied, then the employee remains as a permanent employee.

At the end of the experience, it is a true team effort.

Many businesses have been so impressed with MRC job seekers that they call us when they need a good worker. As you can see, building relationships makes a huge difference in employment. Building relationships is important for anyone’s job search…and as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, I try to help my clients make positive and supportive connections to the world of work.

Employment Support Makes a Difference for People with Disabilities


Amelia Robbins-CureauMy name is Amelia Robbins-Cureau. I have the privilege of being a vocational rehabilitation counselor with The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). Most people do not know what I mean when I say I am a “vocational rehabilitation counselor.” But when I say, “I help people with disabilities get jobs,” that catches their attention.

In today’s economy, we are even more focused on the topic of jobs than ever before because unemployment rates are extremely high. For people with disabilities, unemployment is around 80% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Yet in my job I meet so many people with disabilities who want to work, but are facing challenges that make it more difficult to compete with others for jobs.

Advocating for employment

I joined the Commission because employment is something I am passionate about. I wanted to be an advocate for individuals with disabilities to achieve their goals. Having a job is beneficial in so many ways.

In my job, I often work with individuals who come in to my office feeling discouraged, confused and nervous about what is to come. They may not know what my role is or how I’m going to help them find a job. I like to start by asking what they hope to accomplish, what their strengths are and who is in their network.

Building on strengths

For so many people with disabilities, work seems out of reach.

Sometimes people are not sure what kind of work they want to do. People with disabilities are often told what they can’t do but they need to think about what they actually can.

Other times, they know what they want to do, but they need the skills and experience to apply for a job. At MRC we help individuals get those skills through things like participating in job training programs, 1:1 employment counseling, and job seeking skills groups.

Other challenges faced

Sometimes, because of mental illness, physical injury or trauma, my clients have had to leave many jobs to get healthy again. Their work history may be scattered, and they are not sure how they will ever get hired.

At MRC, we work with individuals to create a resume that reflects their talents, experience and accomplishments, not their limitations. I work together with clients to make sure they are allowing time to care for themselves and talk with mental health counselors or doctors in order to stay healthy and ready for the job search.

As you can see, my job at The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission is to help people with disabilities gain the skills and connections they need for employment. We work together to figure out what kind of work they want to do, and what kind of skills and experiences they need to become qualified for the job.

Then we help people go out and actually get a job.

For me, there is no better feeling than helping a person with a disability become more confident, get a job, and feel proud of the work that they do.

Gateway Arts Studios offer Artists with Disabilities a Place to Grow


2 Shoppers at the Venfen Store

For 22 years I have been coming to work at Gateway Arts. I am still impressed by the successful and tight-knit community that I am privileged to be part of, including over 100 talented artists with disabilities and a dedicated staff of professional artists and administrators who together, help make this premier Art Center shine.

Studio provides outlet and income

Since 1973, talented adults with disabilities from diverse backgrounds have been working at the unique Gateway Arts Studio program located in Brookline, Massachusetts. The studio includes people from 18 to 92 years old, with various disabilities; developmental, psychiatric, head injury, visual and hearing impaired and the full autism spectrum disorders. They live in group homes, with their families, or on their own.

As a service for 35 years of the renowned non-profit human service provider Vinfen, Gateway helps these artists earn profits from everything they create. Pieces are sold in a number of venues including the professionally appointed Gateway Gallery, the freestanding Gateway Craft Store, outside venues, online, and through commissioned installations.

The artist first

Coming from a background of art myself, with an MA in Art History from Columbia University and co-founder of a successful art collective, I feel privileged to be able to witness the remarkable creations that emerge daily from the Gateway studios. Here, we see the art and the artist first. Their disability may be part of who they are, but at Gateway it never defines them.

Many adults with disabilities deal with three limiting issues that Gateway’s unique art-centered program helps to eliminate: Stigmatization, Underemployment, and Isolation. Art as a vocation shepherds people into the mainstream with increased self esteem, by providing them with earnings and offering a nurturing community of other artists with disabilities as both colleagues and friends. To paraphrase, sometimes ‘It takes a studio’!

At Gateway, we make art work.

Join us for our blog next week and an intimate look at the amazing stories of some of the inspirational people who make up Gateway Arts.

About the AuthorMona Thaler

Mona Thaler is the Development, Marketing, and PR Director for Gateway Arts.