A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers is coming together in an effort to promote policies aimed at increasing employment among people with developmental disabilities.  The group will identify polices and regulations that will help people with disabilities enter the workforce.  The effort coincides with a new awareness campaign that highlights ways then current Medicaid eligibility standards hamper independence for those with developmental disabilities.

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As the saying goes, “family is forever.”  Every single human being on Earth has some sort of a family.  Obviously, there are several different kinds of families.  Whether it’s blood relatives, a church family, a family of friends, or another combination of people, families are what get us through life.  Family members celebrate the good times together and are there to embrace one another during the difficult times in life.  In past entries, I’ve discussed how my disability affects my immediate family (my mom, dad, and sister).  I’ve also shared about how I’ve been blessed with an amazing group of friends who accept and embrace my unique circumstances, but my disability also affects another group of people who I dearly love.  My extended family—my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

My mom and dad each happen to be the oldest of four children in their families.  They were the first to get married, and they were the first to have a child.  My grandparents were filled with excitement with the expecting of the first grandchild.  My aunts and uncles were eager to meet their first niece or nephew.  As I’ve shared in previous entries, my mom had a completely normal pregnancy and I was born on my due date.  The complications happened during the last few minutes of delivery.  I can’t even fathom what it was like for my grandparents, aunts, and uncles to get that call saying that there were complications and it was unclear if I’d survive.  What an awful phone call to get—especially when they were anticipating joyous news.  In the days following my birth, my grandparents and some of my aunts and uncles came with my parents to see me in Neonatial Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  Visiting the NICU isn’t a walk in the park.  It’s a frightening place.  Even though medical professionals assured my parents that it was a fluke mishap, my traumatic birth put a scare into the entire family—especially since some of my uncles and aunts were planning to have children soon after.  Thankfully, the initial shock did wear off, and it was realized that it wasn’t anything genetic.

During the first few years, my grandparents, aunts, and uncles did whatever they could to help.  My grandparents and aunts and uncles who were in the area learned how to take care of me.  It’s not uncommon for grandparents or aunts and uncles to babysit, but my relatives had some additional responsibilities when they watched me.  That didn’t stop them though; they were always more than willing to take me for a night or weekend so that my parents could enjoy some time out.  I had one set of grandparents who lived very nearby.  Some of my best memories from my childhood are when my grandma took me to physical therapy in Oshkosh on Friday mornings (because I didn’t have Early Childhood that day) and then I’d spend the day with her and grandpa.  It wasn’t what grandparents did with “typical” grandchildren, but that didn’t matter to them; they wanted to spend time with me.

My first cousin was born when I was two or three years old.  Relief came in the family when she was perfectly healthy.  My parents were overjoyed to have their first niece; however, I think at times it was hard for them to see her meet the normal milestones like walking and talking because I hadn’t done those things and they knew I’d likely never would.  My mom has told me she remembers having to explain to me why my cousin was able to walk and talk, but I wasn’t.  I can’t imagine how hard that must have been, but I know she did it in a positive way. 

My sister and many more cousins came in the following years.  It has never been discussed in front of me, but I’m sure my aunts and uncles had to have conversations with their children about my disability.  I’m sure that they made it clear to their kids should greet and hug me (we’re a hugging type family) when they first see me.  I’m sure they were told to try to include me in everything too.  Having to explain my disability to my cousins couldn’t have been easy for my uncles and aunts—especially since there’s quite an age range among it my cousins.  Like most little kids, many of my cousins went through a stage where they were scared of me because I was visibly different, but my aunts and uncles did their best to try to encourage interaction with me.  I’m sure my cousins asked lots of questions after seeing especially when they were really young, and I can only assume that my aunts and uncles did their best to answer them. 

My grandparents and relatives continue to help as I get older.   When I went to school at UW-Whitewater, I was fortunate to have my other grandparents and an uncle and aunt close by.  My grandparents came up every week to do my laundry for me.  It was very nice to see them so often.  It also gave my parents piece of mind that if I ever had an emergency, people were close.  When I’ve had medical issues the past few years, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins have been always right there to offer support in any way they can.  I also think they realize that seemingly minuscule achievements for most are often huge accomplishments (graduating college, moving into an apartment, getting a job, etc…) for me; they understand we celebrate the small victories in my life.

As my cousins have grown up, they have gotten better about interacting with me.  Obviously, like in all families, some cousins are closer than others.  Overall, though, in recent years, I’ve noticed that many of my cousins are taking time to interact with me without being prompted to.  I can’t tell you what an awesome feeling that is.  I’m well aware that it takes some extra effort and patience to have a conversation with me.  It’s to the point where many of my cousins are dating, getting married, and having babies.  I know that my aunts, uncles and now cousins probably have to explain my circumstances to their significant others and children. Again, I know that it can’t be an easy conversation to have, but they do it because they want them to feel comfortable around me.

Having somebody who has a significant disability in a family has its challenges.  Extended family has a choice whether or not to accept the circumstances the person has.  I’m beyond blessed to have an incredible extended family who not only accepts, but embraces the person I am.  For that, I’m forever grateful! 

***The views expressed here are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of InControl Wisconsin, the Network or any of our sponsors.

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President Trump has proclaimed October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  During the month, the country celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and highlight the skills and talents they bring to the workplace.  

Read full proclamation

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The Job Accommodation Network released the 2017 update to its annual “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact” study. The research indicates that the majority of workplace accommodations cost nothing, while for those that do, the typical small expenditure pays for itself multiple-fold in the form of reduced insurance and training costs and increased productivity and morale.

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They seem to be ongoing questions: how can employers maybe the workplace inclusive for people with disabilities and how can companies ensure that training complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act?  This article discusses the concept of "universal design," ADA compliance, and how technology plays a role in making the workplace inclusive.

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A program in Eau Claire aims to prepare young adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 21 for life after high school graduation. The activity, called the Amazing Race to Employment, is funded through a Transition Improvement Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  It allows students to collaborate with business owners.

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Wisconsin farmers with disabilities have been able to access fewer services through the state’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation during the past year and a half, and officials at the AgrAbility of Wisconsin program aren’t happy about it. The AgrAbility of Wisconsin program provides assistive services to farmers and their families living with an injury, disability or limitation. Due to a new DVR business policy, farmers with disabilities often aren't getting the help they need.  The requirements under the new policy make it difficult for farmers to qualify for services.

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The American Association on Health and Disability ( is accepting applications for the Frederick J. Krause Scholarship for undergraduate (junior/senior status) and graduate students with disabilities who are majoring in a field related to disability and health.  Please feel free to distribute to your colleagues.

SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM CRITERIA: The AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability is awarded annually to deserving students with a disability,pursuing undergraduate/graduate studies (must be at least enrolled as a Junior in college) in an accredited college or university. Preference is given to students majoring in a field related to disability and health, to include, but not limited to  public health, health promotion, disability studies, disability research, rehabilitation engineering, audiology, disability policy, special education and majors that will impact quality of life of persons with disabilities.

Applicant must have a disability Applicant must be enrolled  FULL TIME as an undergraduate student (junior standing and above) or enrolled PART TIME or FULL TIME in a graduate school Preference is given to students majoring in a field related to disability and health (see Scholarship  Program Criteria above) Applicant must be a US citizen or legal resident living in the US and enrolled in an accredited United States university Funds are limited to under $1,000

FUNDING INFORMATION: Funds are limited to under $1,000. The AAHD Board of Directors Scholarship Committee will evaluate each of the applicants and make a decision in December of each calendar year.  The 2017-2018 Scholarship Award will be awarded January 2018.  It is the discretion of the Scholarship Committee to determine how many scholarships will be awarded each year and the amount of each scholarship. 


  • Applicant must provide a Personal Statement (maximum 3 pages, double spaced), including brief personal history, educational/career goals, extra-curricular activities, and reasons why they should be selected by the AAHD Scholarship Committee. This statement must be written solely by the applicant
  • Applicant must provide two (2) Letters of Recommendation (One must be from a teacher or academic advisor). Letters may be sent by U. S. mail or by email attachment as pdf and should include the signature of the teacher or advisor, and the name of student should appear in the subject line of the email.
  • Applicant must provide an official copy of college transcript, which should be mailed to AAHD in a sealed envelope.
  • Applicant must agree to allow AAHD to use their name, picture and/or story in future scholarship materials.

Applications are due November 15, 2017.

APPLICATION FORM: PDF" rel="noopener">
Please attach your application, supporting materials, etc. and email to: Place “2017-18 Scholarship” in subject line. (Please use MS Word for your personal statement and MS Word, if at all possible, and/or PDF for all other documents that are emailed as attachments).  If this is not possible, please mail documents to:

Scholarship Committee
American Association on Health and Disability
110 N. Washington Street, Suite 328-J
Rockville, MD 20850

Only completed applications will be considered and must be postmarked and/or received by email no later than November 15, 2017.

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This is an interesting article written by a Representative from Mississippi about the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act.  The bill would eliminate the ability of employers to get special certificates so they can pay subminimum wages to people with disabilities.  The TIME Act will phrase out and repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act without raising minimum wage.  The Representative created this bill  because he feels that people with disabilities should not be paid less than minimum wage.  He also has a personal connection because his son has a disability.

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Employment Network News: September 2017

By Employment Network, 2017-09-19

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Time is Running Out...Register Today!

There is still time to register for the 10th annual Self-Determination Conference. This conference ​works ​to ​empower ​people ​with ​disabilities ​in ​Wisconsin ​to ​have ​more ​control ​over ​their ​lives. ​More ​than ​600 ​people ​each ​year ​participate ​in ​the ​conference ​to ​learn ​more ​about ​self-determination ​and ​self ​directed ​supports ​so ​they ​can ​live ​independently, ​be ​members ​of ​their ​communities, ​and ​use ​public ​funds ​efficiently. ​The ​conference ​participants ​include ​people ​with ​disabilities ​and ​their ​family ​members, ​direct ​care ​providers, ​and ​professionals ​from ​Wisconsin’s ​disability ​community.  View this year's conference brochure and register today

Diehard Award Nominations

Do you know someone who goes above and beyond to improve community supports for individuals with disabilities? Do they support self-determination? Nominate them for a Diehard Award! A Diehard is an individual who has made a significant contribution to the advocacy work here in Wisconsin. A diehard is someone with a steadfast commitment to the principles of community integration and self-determination. Diehards go above and beyond to make sure everyone is counted. Awards will be presented at the Self-Determination Conference on November 3rd at the Kalahari Resort and Conference Center in the Wisconsin Dells. Nominations are due on Friday, October 6th. Nominate someone today!


The Employment Network includes some very talented members and we want to help you to get to know each other a little better.  In September, the Employment Network is shining the Spotlight on Deb Thompson.   When she’s not reading or spending time with her grandchildren, this Vocational Specialist loves helping people with disabilities find employment.  She encourages people to take risks and not to become discouraged when looking for employment. Stop by this month's Member Spotlight to get to know more about Deb! 

Do you know an Employment Network member who we could shine a spotlight on next?

128 Stacy’s Journal

Lately, it seems like all of the news coverage has been about the catastrophic storms that are happening around the world. Back to back major hurricanes in the south, wildfires in the west, earthquakes in Mexico… it seems endless. This month, Stacy discusses what extra steps people with disabilities have to take when Mother Nature throws curve balls.  We encourage you to share your experiences as well.

Take five minutes to check out what's happening on the Employment Network:

  • Be Inspired:  The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion recently published two new profiles of Workforce Recruitment Program participants on its Success Stories webpage.  Read the stories and learn about the program.
  • Changing Attitudes about Employing People with Disabilities:  Although people with disabilities are still largely under represented in the workplace, new data suggests that corporate attitudes are shifting.  Find out what companies are finding.
  • Embracing Inclusion:  According to a new report which was part of the 2017 Disability Equality Index, a growing number of businesses are actively recruiting people with disabilities.  Learn about how many employers have disability focus groups and many have senior executives working on the effort.
  • Five Common Factors: The National Organization on Disability released aggregated results of its 2017 Disability Employment Tracker, revealing five common attributes shared by companies making the most progress on disability inclusion.  Find out what those factors are.
  • Call for Proposals:  Proposals to present at the 2018 National ADA Symposium are now being accepted.  The submission deadline is September 30th.
  • The Results are In:  The U.S. Business Leadership Network and the American Association of People with Disabilities announced the results of their 2017 Disability Equality Index (DEI) survey, an annual effort to gather information about best practices for disability inclusion across industries.  Find out which businesses earned top ratings.

calendar.jpegUpcoming Events 

Here's a sample of upcoming events listed on the Employment Network:

Post your event on the Employment Network and it can be included in future Network News emails to members! Questions? Contact Stacy Ellingen.  


The Employment Network is powered by In Control Wisconsin and supported financially by our members and Sponsors. We couldn't keep this Network going with you! Find out how you can support the Network!

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