Transition planning after high school: How are we doing? .
The initiation of civil rights legislation that asserts and protects the rights of Americans with disabilities has arguably transformed the landscape for all of us in this country. The IDEA and ADA have articulated the rights of Americans with disabilities to:
- receive free and public education
- live within the larger community
- access community buildings and transportation
- compete for jobs
The fact that such legislation has been passed marks changes in society’s attitudes about having disability, and is the outcome of many large social forces, such as technology that provides many means for people to move about, communicate, and produce valuable work effectively and quickly. (The fact that you are reading this blog is a perfect example of some of these technological wonders!)
While opportunities for meaningful and satisfying lives are clearly improved relative to those during the pre-IDEA and ADA eras, many young adults with developmental and other long-term disabilities find that life after high school is limited, even with good transition planning during high school. The National Longitudinal Transition Study was started in 1987 to learn about the lives of tens of thousands of special education students during and up to 5 years after leaving high school. It is now in its second phase (NLTS-2).
What we have learned from these and other such studies is that, if you or a loved one with a disability are unemployed or severely underemployed, have too little to do all day, and feel cut off from opportunity, you are in good company. In fact, 59% of young people with disabilities were unemployed two years post-high school in the NLTS-2 report as of 2007. This figure has, unfortunately, been quite stable for decades. The truth is, the tax-supported services like the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and even many non-profit agencies are unable to meet the needs of a large number of individuals with disabilities, due to a number of issues. (I will describe this issue more fully in future writings.)