#OliveCares: ‘AHEDD’ of the Disability Employment Issue - AHEDD

This week at Olive Devices, our #FreeBell theme is #employment! We want to celebrate everything about such an important part of everyday life. Our mission is to provide independence by developing assistive devices that will strengthen our communities through function and aesthetic. Independence that, for many, could lead to employment. For today’s #OliveCares post, we were lucky enough to find AHEDD, a specialized human resources organization who shares that belief.

AHEDD’s mission is “to serve the community as a catalyst in the employment and development of people with disabilities.” Started back in 1977, the organization helped strengthen education for those with disabilities by during a landmark Right to Education Legislation. They were initially an alternative to the segregating training programs available for people with developmental disabilities. Throughout the years, they evolved to a one-on-one place and train job coaching model.

“Outcomes and performance are engrained in our culture, and this productivity mindset factors into all facets of the organization,” Stacy Kyle, AHEDD project director, said. “We feel a responsibility to deliver results for the tax dollars spent on services and to demonstrate our belief that everyone has ability.”

In 1994, AHEDD developed a school-to-work program focused on the transition of students with disabilities. By the 2000’s, the group began to contract with SSA under a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program and the Ticket to Work Program. AHEDD is now a leader in providing employment services to people with disabilities in Pennsylvania, offering information, referrals, pre employment services, job development, work incentive counseling, on-site and off-site report and follow-along services.

“We have a long way to go with employment statistics for people with disabilities,” Kyle said. “With an aging workforce and changes in legislation more and more businesses are casting the net wider for candidates. Whether it’s to find people to fill open positions, realization that they could benefit for mirroring the community that they serve, and/or compliance regulations, there’s a growing push for businesses to increase diversity and inclusion of people with disabilities within the workplace.”

AHEDD is working to create change within a subject that is not talked about enough. In 2011, only 17% of people with disabilities were in the workforce. This is not a number that should be feared, but instead talked about and addressed seriously. My favorite part about AHEDD’s website is the section with the success stories of the many lives they have already helped change. These are living, breathing examples that making a difference is more than possible.

“I think real change will occur when we have more families, system employees, and educators setting higher expectations for youth with disabilities,” Kyle said. “While there are always going to be exceptions, why shouldn’t we all be talking with youth (with and without disabilities) about what they want to do when they grow up? Shouldn’t we expect everyone to contribute within the workforce at the level they are able? Disability awareness/education is important, but real learning comes from having people interact more with individuals with disabilities.”


Molly Oretsky

Molly Oretsky