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What Does APSE Mean to You?

David HoffSince its inception, APSE has stood for a very clear cause – that people with disabilities have the right to fully participate in the workforce just like everyone else. Within these efforts, APSE has recognized that having a job is not just a means to a paycheck – it’s a way to become part of a community, to connect with others, to learn, to build friendships, to grow as a person. APSE has done the same for me. I first became a member of APSE in 1991, when APSE was just three years old, and I was a newly minted job coach. We’ve grown up together and it’s been a wonderful journey. I have learned and grown so much through APSE, and have met so many wonderful, committed (and yes, fun!) people. Most importantly, APSE has allowed me to join with others in a common cause for the civil rights of people with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect as fellow citizens, fully included in all aspects of society. I am so proud and humbled to be President of this wonderful organization on its 25th anniversary. Congratulations to APSE and thank you – thank you to all the members, staff, and volunteers who blazed the trail and made the organization what it is today – and thank you to those who will guide us into a future where it is simply a given that people with all types of disabilities are employed, pursuing careers and building assets just like people without disabilities.

David Hoff, Institute for Community Inclusion, Massachusetts , APSE Board President, 2012 


Laura OwensIn 1991, I left my teaching position to begin a new venture – starting an employment agency for individuals with disabilities – Creative Employment Opportunities, Inc. (CEO). CEO began out of a vision to advance economic solutions to business through the social inclusion of all people. I felt isolated in my vision until I attended my first of many APSE conferences in Denver, Colorado in the summer of 1991. The rest is history! I quickly became actively involved in the organization, starting the Wisconsin APSE chapter, becoming a National Delegate, serving as a National Board member, and now I have the honor of being the fourth Executive Director. Thank you to all of those who came before me with the vision of integrated employment for all individuals. I have come full circle with APSE and am excited about the next 25 years!

Laura A. Owens, Ph.D., Executive Director, APSE, 2008-2014


Susan RinneAs an employee in a sheltered work program back in the early 80’s, I knew that there was something more the people I served could do.  Around that time, I was introduced to supported employment and social role valorization and it all made so much sense.  As I became more comfortable with the strategies and attitudes inherent in supported employment and less comfortable with what I saw happening day to day, I began reaching out to others to learn more and for support.  When I found APSE in the late 80’s, I finally had people to talk with who shared the values of inclusion and employment.  That support sustained me when funders and other providers said it was impossible.  Along with some great staff, I began supported employment programs at two agencies…and APSE kept me going.

APSE has been the source of my education.   I have learned so much from the pioneers, David Mank, Paul Wehman, Wendy Wood, Suzie Hutchison, Dale Dileo, and so many more….all at APSE conferences and events.  As a result, my agency and I are better at providing employment support and more aware of how we can continually improve.  It is hard to believe it has been 25 years (cause that makes me really old).  APSE’s accomplishments are many but the most important, hundreds of thousands of people who have community jobs.  APSE’s commitment, values, and services are stronger than ever and will continue to have that kind of impact far into the future.

Susan Rinne, LifeDesigns, Indiana, Past APSE Board President


Wendy WoodI’m so excited to hear about APSE celebrating 25 years!!!  When APSE was conceived all those years ago, I had no imaginings of that fledging association achieving such a landmark.  Supported employment is a successful approach to help individuals with disabilities achieve real work in their communities.  With work, comes the recognition that people with disabilities are participants and contributors, – co-workers and neighbors. Because of this success, people involved in supported employment have an enthusiasm and energy about their work that folks in other fields envy. APSE is such a wonderful gathering place for that energy and enthusiasm to advance improvements in practice and to shape policy in Washington.  I’m so proud to have played a role in founding APSE.  Congratulations to you all!!

Wendy M. Wood, Founding Executive Director, 1988-1994