APSE’s Proud History of Advocacy

Thanks to the dedicated and relentless advocacy of individuals with disabilities, their families, and concerned organizations, Americans with disabilities have seen profound and positive improvements in their lives and livelihoods over the last 50 years. APSE is proud to have been a force for change and is poised to keep the momentum going with the goal of Employment First – real jobs for real pay for all people with disabilities.

Employment First connects people with disabilities to inclusive workplaces with fair wages, providing opportunities to join their communities and contribute to the economy. APSE works to protect progress already made and urges Congress and the federal government to support legislation and policies that will make Employment First a national policy.

Founded in 1988, APSE members took on state and national leadership roles to promote the inclusive employment movement, made possible by U.S. Department of Education (DoE) Supported Employment Grants. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, DoE issued these federal grants to more than 40 states to provide services for finding and maintaining jobs in community settings for people with disabilities, offering them alternatives to the isolation and potential for economic exploitation of segregated or sheltered work settings.

DOE Supported Employment grant, and APSE’s assistance implementing them, helped and (continue to) foster hope and dignity and provide opportunities and transform the lives of people with the most significant disabilities.

APSE has grown to represent and amplify the voices of advocates, including Americans with disabilities, their families, support professionals, educators, students, and employers. Our resources work to advance Employment First, through our conferences, web-based and live professional education, tool kits, and alerts and advice on political issues that impact Employment First.

APSE is proud to:

  • Provide guidance and technical assistance to support organizations as they transform from segregated to community-based employment services providers,
  • Lead the charge to protect federal programs providing vital services to people with disabilities, and
  • Connect experts and diverse stakeholders to consider how employment can transform the lives of individuals who are given the opportunity and support to work.

(* Wage and Hour Division Lists for: School Work Experience Programs, Employers of Patient Workers, Business Certificate Holders, and Community Rehabilitation Programs)

Key Moments for Employment First

Just as no individual or group could lay claim for the success of the following achievement, none could have done it alone. APSE members have provided robust advocacy and resources to help make these achievements a reality. Our members are those with testimonies that real jobs for Americans with disabilities are not only possible but should also be expected.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.

  • Olmstead Decision

    The landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C. declared segregation of people with disabilities, when integrated, community-based settings are an option, a form of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Through this decision, the Court ruled that states must place people with disabilities in community living if "treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer from institutional care to a less restrictive setting is not opposed by the affected individual, and the placement can be reasonably accommodated." Olmstead has been interpreted to apply to workplaces as well.

  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

    On July 22, 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was signed into law. WIOA is landmark legislation designed to strengthen and improve our nation's public workforce system and help get Americans, including people with disabilities, into high-quality jobs and careers and help employers hire and retain skilled workers. Congress passed the Act by a wide bipartisan majority; it is the first legislative reform in 15 years of the public workforce system. WIOA supersedes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.