2019 National Conference

Text in a green box. Gateway to Inclusive Employment - APSE 2019. Celebrating 30 years of APSE. June 18-20, 2019. Pre-conference: June 17, 2019. St Louis Missouri.

Join us to celebrate 30 years of APSE for the 2019 APSE National Conference!

The Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) is the only national conference focused solely on the advancement of Employment First. The APSE National Conference brings together over 1,000 community leaders, businesses, individuals and organizations impacted by Employment First - people with disabilities and their families, service providers, universities, rehabilitation counselors and state agency personnel. The conference focuses on state-of-the-art strategies to ensure equitable employment for all citizens with disabilities.

About the Conference
Conference FAQs
APSE Awards
Special Thanks
About the Conference

Gateway to Inclusive Employment

APSE 30 years.

The National APSE Conference is the only national conference focused solely on the advancement of Employment First. The Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) National Conference brings together more than 1,000 community leaders, businesses, and individuals with disabilities from across the country and around the world to network and discuss state-of-the-art strategies to ensure equitable employment for all citizens with disabilities.

Attendees had the advantage of:

  • Education and networking opportunities
  • Pre-conference sessions followed by 2.5 days of more than 100 high-quality, interactive breakout sessions by national experts
  • Dozens of Exhibitors
  • National Awards
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What Does Employment First Mean?

Employment First means that employment in the general workforce should be the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems. Simply put, Employment First means real jobs, real wages.

Employment in the general workforce means regular jobs like everyone else in society: in typical work settings, working side-by-side with people without disabilities, earning regular wages and benefits and being part of the economic mainstream of our society.

APSE supports Employment First to facilitate the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and community.

The APSE National Conference attracts key influencers and stakeholders representing employers, communities, agencies, and services. APSE members are the very people and organizations impacted by Employment First; citizens with disabilities, and their families, universities, rehabilitation counselors, agency personnel and service providers. 

The National Conference is designed to provide actionable ideas, state-of-the-art programming, as well as tools, solutions, and technologies that will empower you to take directly back to your business, home and community to impact change. Come ready to learn, network, and do!

APSE Awards

2019 APSE National Awards

Each year, APSE honors individuals, organizations and employers for their individual and collective contribution to Employment First. We invite nominations for the 30th Annual National APSE Conference: “Gateway to Inclusive Employment.”

Award Categories

APSE would like to honor those who have excelled in the following award categories:

APSE Best Practice Award-Organization

To recognize an organization for outstanding accomplishments in promoting state-of- the-art practices in Employment First.  

APSE Employer Award

To recognize employers in the public and private sectors for outstanding achievements in advancing Employment First.    

Lois Curtis Award - Person with a Disability

To recognize an individual’s personal achievement in advocating for inclusive, individualized, community-based employment and/or independent living. 

Lois Curtis paved the way for people with disabilities to live in their own communities while receiving the services they need.  June 22, 2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Olmstead Decision. The plaintiffs in the case were Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson (deceased December 4, 2005), two women who were diagnosed with disabilities and had been treated in both institutional and in community-based settings. The case rose to the level of the Supreme Court and the court decided that "unjustified isolation" of a person with a disability is a form of discrimination under Title II of the ADA.  Lois spent 18 years living in an institution. Since the Olmstead Decision went into effect in 1999, Lois has been able to live in an apartment she shares with a woman who helps her with activities of daily living. Today, Lois says her life is a better life.

Public Policy Leader

To distinguish an individual who has excelled in grassroots advocacy to ensure that local, state and/or federal policies meet the goal of increasing Employment First. The Public Policy Leader is someone who inspires others to make a difference by engaging with elected officials and key stakeholders in discussions to promote policies that support the mission of Employment First! 

Wendy M. Wood Award - Emerging Leader

To recognize emerging leaders who are developing a vision and creating action toward full inclusion of citizens with disabilities in our society.   

Wendy M. Wood is the founding Executive Director of APSE.  To begin this organization took great vision, effort, determination and risk.  To honor her contribution to this organization and to the overall field of supported employment and Employment First, APSE’s Board of Directors established this award.  

Dave Hammis Innovation Award

To honor Dave’s contributions to APSE and Employment First, this award is offered to individuals or organizations who demonstrate innovation in the area of technology, customized strategies, and/or self-employment for individuals with significant disabilities.

Dave Hammis was an incredible innovator in the field of community-based and customized employment.  His creativity and fresh approach to supporting people in inclusive workplaces---whether at a business or through self-employment---inspired many of us to see beyond the realities of what we thought possible.  To honor his contributions to APSE and to the overall field of customized employment, APSE has established this award. 

Rebecca McDonald Award

To honor Rebecca’s contributions to APSE and the employment of people with disabilities, this award is presented to an APSE Chapter Leader who demonstrates exceptional leadership, tireless volunteerism and extraordinary commitment to the mission and vision of APSE within their state chapter.

Rebecca McDonald was a tireless advocate for supported employment and a dedicated friend and champion of APSE.  She passed away in August of 1999 after a long and valiant struggle with breast cancer---this year will mark 20 years since her passing. She was one of supported employment’s greatest advocates, serving APSE in various ways for 11 years.  She was the organization’s founding Vice-President, served as its President for three years, and was an officer for the APSE Foundation until a few months before her death. 

Rebecca deeply believed in the principles APSE was founded upon and she supported and encouraged others to give and share resources to make those principles a reality.

2019 APSE Award Winners

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