21 and Able is a United Way of Allegheny County initiative to create a roadmap for youth with disabilities who are transitioning out of high school to continue their education, to work, live independently, and participate actively in their communities to the greatest extent possible.
This will be accomplished through 3 major efforts:
Engaging people throughout Allegheny County and the state to advocate for major changes in federal, state, and local policies and funding.
Developing an accessible website and communications for youth and their families; creating media efforts to highlight issues and showcase positive community change; engaging policy makers and the general public.
Demonstration projects that support transition planning, employment, housing and community inclusion.
Currently, the United Way has 6 pilot projects related to its 21 & Able effort
A checklist to support youth with disabilities and their families to ensure they are reviewing all aspects of transition and a full range of possibilities. The checklist includes county-specific resources for community agencies and medical supports.
This project is coordinated with 2-1-1 line and website in Western Pennsylvania Transition is included in an expansion of the 2-1-1 hotline (a human services information and referral service currently serving Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Fayette, and Westmoreland Counties) to ensure that transition information is strong and easily accessed. Young people with disabilities and their family members can talk with a trained specialist at any point during their transition from secondary school or after they have left school for the most up-to-date information and referrals regarding transition.
The team has investigated national and international solutions and trends in housing for persons with disabilities. By working in collaboration with individuals with disabilities and/or their families as well as our partners and housing agencies, our plan is to work toward developing similar inclusive models in Allegheny County.
Skills and Accommodations Match
Working with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PaTTAN) and Career and Technical Education, we propose increasing already existing capacity to support youth with disabilities. Some youth do not consider high priority occupations due to lack of exposure or training for these jobs. Using cross-disciplinary teams, we propose to develop curriculum that will support the existing Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) that would recommend modifications or accommodations to support success in these desirable jobs.
Employment Preparation and Placement
21 and Able is working with businesses to increase access to the workforce. This includes a pilot project that would ‘embed’ a full-time (agency) job coach in a local business. This job coach would take a permanent role in the company, continually supporting individuals with disabilities. The first company will hire 24 school-age youth (ages 17-21) over a two year period to help provide a more seamless transition to adulthood. The embedded team member would provide adaptations and accommodations solutions and review other jobs within the company that are viable opportunities for the individuals they support. In addition, they would act as a disability awareness liaison for team and company education.
Programmatic supports throughout transition-Discussion is in process in Allegheny County, looking at solutions to ensure that youth with disabilities can better navigate and more seamlessly gain supports from all the systems they need to engage during their transition process.
Adults with Complex Transitions
The goal of this cross-disability effort is to develop better solutions for youth in transition from high school to adulthood who have the most significant intellectual, medical, physical and/or behavioral challenges. This pilot will begin the work of identifying barriers for these youth and addressing issues to ensure the needs of individuals with complex transitions are being supported in community based programs, housing and supports.