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People with Disabilities receive Support for their Employment Goals

TRENTON - The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) today commemorated its  5th anniversary as an “Employment First” state by hosting an event called “Let’s Get to Work” for people who are currently, or soon will be, receiving DDD services.

On April 19, 2012, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation declaring New Jersey an Employment First state, making New Jersey the 14th state in the nation to adopt this policy, which is an affirmation that working is the first and preferred post education outcome for all people with disabilities. 

People with disabilities often confront barriers to employment and our commitment as an Employment First state reflects our intent to eliminate barriers and support the efforts of people with disabilities to participate in the workforce,” said DHS Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly. The value of employment goes well beyond a pay check; it provides a sense of purpose and personal achievement, as well as greater financial independence.”

Accompanied by family members, each participant met individually with an employment professional to learn about finding a job or building a career. There were 35 participants that signed up for an individual 45 minute, one-to-one guidance session.  The sessions were offered at DDD’s central office, Hamilton.

 “Becoming an Employment First state is the first step in transforming expectations regarding what is achievable for all people with disabilities,” said Assistant Commissioner  Elizabeth Shea, who oversees DDD.  “There is a largely untapped labor force of individuals with developmental disabilities who can contribute to the workforce and the division now provides, throughout our expanded system of services, a greater focus on supporting individuals in developing and achieving career goals.”

Since becoming an Employment First state, DDD has added individualized employment goals to the annual planning process for every participant who receives services from the division, as well as offering career planning, prevocational training and supported employment services to all division participants.

Employment professionals at today’s event included:

  • Jennifer Joyce, DDD’s Director of the Supports Program and Employment Services and her staff members, Katelynne Collick, Alison Capelli, Theresa Miceli and Claudia Aboky-Djanty.
  • Margaret Gilbride, Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’ Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities Director of Transition, Employment, and Aging and Disability; and Training and Consultation Professionals Jessica Short and Bethany Chase.

Information tables were provided by these participating organizations:

  • The One-Stop Career Center, Mercer County
  • The New Jersey Work Incentive Network Support (NJWINS)
  • The New Jersey Travel Independence Program (NJTIP)
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA)
  • Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ)
  • The New Jersey Self-Advocacy Project

Each guidance session focused on the participant’s interests, skills and support needs in order to develop options for potential employment opportunities. The professionals answered participant’s questions about transportation, job training and earning an income without jeopardizing essential disability benefits.  Each employment professional created a step-by-step plan for every participant to use to work toward meeting his or her employment goals. Follow up will be done with each of the participants by DDD staff.


DDD provides public funding for services and supports that assist approximately 26,000 New Jersey adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities age 21 and older to live as independently as possible.

Historically, people with disabilities have had lower participation in the work force than people without disabilities. The United States Department of Labor reports the March 2017 Disability Employment Statistics for individuals, ages 16 years and over:


Labor Force Participation

  • People with disabilities: 20.4%
  • People without disabilities: 68.7%
  • People with disabilities: 10.6%
  • People without disabilities: 4.3%


Unemployment Rate

  • People with disabilities: 10.6%
  • People without disabilities: 4.3%
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