Transitioning to Adulthood: Employment Supports for Patients with Disabilities

June 16, 2023

The Colorado Office of Employment First (COEF) and JFK Partners, the University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of Colorado, is proud to highlight the development and delivery of a training for healthcare providers.

This curriculum provides a basic understanding of the importance of employment for youth and adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), the importance of employment conversations in the healthcare setting, and the evidence based and other employment practices that fully support the employment goals of all people with IDD, regardless of severity of disability.

Objectives of the Training

  1. To understand that all people with disabilities, regardless of severity, are employable and if provided support can achieve their employment goals.
  2. To describe how there is a variety of community resources and employment practices that support people with disabilities in the pursuit of employment.  Access to these programs are key to success.
  3. To provide resources available for patients with disabilities that support employment and provide a healthcare provider with a comfort level to address employment regardless of severity of disability.

This training was conceptualized based on lived experience and a clinical practitioner’s realized importance of employment as a discussion point in transition clinics that exist for youth transitioning to adult healthcare systems.  This has also led to the design and funding of a research project supporting the pursuit of employment for youth through transition clinics.  The research examines the overall effect of employment on health outcomes.

This is important because the poverty rate for people with disabilities is more than twice the rate of adults without disabilities.  Employment is a social determinant of health that has a direct impact on financial security, access to healthcare and a pathway out of poverty (CDC, 2023).  However, nearly 85% of individuals with significant disabilities are unemployed or underemployed (U.S. Department of Labor, 2022). Youth and young adults with IDD and their families are navigating fragmented healthcare and community supports and services that can lead to missed opportunities to improve long-term employment outcomes and therefore financial well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the disparities in employment outcomes for individuals with IDD. Addressing employment in a trusted health care setting is important to reduce barriers for individuals and their families and provide more inclusive healthcare.

Connecting employment between the healthcare setting and the community practices and resources that exist can introduce employment as part of the conversation earlier in life and promote having dreams of a career and financial independence. Healthcare providers are a trusted source for information and support. They are involved in initial diagnosis and treatment and can remain a part of the patient’s continuum of care to adulthood and beyond. Providers can promote employment as a viable option in a person’s lifespan.  They can also support referrals to community resources that promote employment. Transition for youth and young adult patients with IDD is already an uncertain time, and with additional knowledge of community resources, healthcare providers can reduce uncertainty about employment.

COEF would like to acknowledge the invaluable contributions promoting employment in the healthcare setting from Dr. Sandra Friedman, Dr. Corry Robinson-Rosenberg, Dr. Jessica Solomon-Sanders, Dr. Aryn Taylor, Keerti Vajrala, BSE, and Teresa Nguyen, MPH.

For more information and partnership opportunities with the Colorado Office of Employment First, please email us at [email protected].


  • Melanie Honsbruch, CPWIC, Curriculum Developer and Trainer in Benefits Counseling, and Colorado DB101 Lead
  • Tiffany Cron, PhD, Curriculum Developer, Person-Centered Thinking Trainer, and Data Lead
  • Vikki Ortiz, MS, CESP, Curriculum Developer, Supported Employment Trainer, and Communications Lead