UNC ACL Initiative Supports Summits for Education and Employment

January 12, 2023

The University of NC in Chapel Hill is in its second year of the five year initiative “Work Together NC,” North Carolina Community Collaboration for Employment funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living Developmental Disabilities Projects of National Significance (Award # 90DNCE0006-01-00). Dr. Brianne Tomaszewski of the Department of Psychiatry/ TEACCH, is  the principal investigator for the 5-year project.

Work Together NC (WTNC) is utilizing an interdisciplinary team at UNC-Chapel Hill to provide the backbone for its system change approach. Working in partnership with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families, and community organizations providing transition services for adolescents and adults, WTNC has established a community collaborative aimed at optimizing opportunities for employment for adults with ID/DD in North Carolina.

The team includes individuals from the Department of Psychiatry/ TEACCH (PI Brianne Tomaszewski, Glenna Osborne, Mike Chapman), Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities/UCEDD (Anna Ward, Kenneth Kelty), Department of Health Sciences (Dara Chan, Nancy Bagatell), School of Social Work (Alison Climo), Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (Ann Sam), and over 60 community collaborators with intellectual and developmental disabilities and individuals from NC DHHS, including Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Public Instruction, and other organizations providing transition and employment services for individuals with ID/DD.

In September 2022 one of the first major projects for Work Together NC, came together in the form of two summits: one for Postsecondary Education (PSE) and the other for Inclusive Employers. The NC Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) awarded additional funding to support the planning of these two summits held on September 8 & 9 in Chapel Hill.  

The PSE Summit involved statewide strategic planning with over 70 participants from College/Universities, Community Colleges, persons with Lived Experience, K-12 Educators, and representatives from state agencies.  Susanna Miller Raines from the Massachusetts Institute for Community Inclusion’s Think College Inclusive Higher Education Network project assisted in leading strategic planning sessions. The PSE summit also included a panel of state leaders and updates on policies and legislation that affects post-secondary education and transition services for students with IDD. The goals for the summit were to examine the current state of PSE in NC, assess need and develop action items in collaboration with WTNC.

The Inclusive Employment Summit on September 9, included over 120 local employers, entrepreneurs, self-advocates, service providers, and family members. The focus of the summit was to educate and inform the greater Triangle community on the resources available around hiring and supporting individuals with IDD in their businesses. 

The Summit offered panel discussions on the advantages of inclusive hiring, start-up resources for entrepreneurs, and career development for self-advocates. Several organizations provided information at the lunchtime resource fair.

The event was co-sponsored by The Chamber, Work Together NCThe Arc of the Triangle, Autism Support and Advocacy Center , NC Council on Developmental Disabilities and a donation from Wegmans.