Frontline Initiative Workforce Development

The Voice of NADSP in Concert with the Alliance for Full Participation

For nearly a decade, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has worked to elevate the status of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in the workforce. We are leading our membership toward greater prominence and capacity by working together and working with other agencies that share our vision. Now NADSP has become part of an alliance that combines all our voices to take direct support to a new level.

The Alliance for Full Participation (AFP) is a partnership of disability organizations united by a common vision: better and more fulfilling lives for people with disabilities through successful community inclusion. NADSP was one of 11 founding members of AFP in 2003. In September 2005, AFP hosted an historic summit of member organizations and individuals committed to making full inclusion a reality. More than 2,500 attended the Summit including the entire NADSP board of directors and many NADSP members. Attendees said, “I don’t believe there’s ever been a time when so many organizations have all joined forces to work on common issues,” and “Coming together for one summit to talk about our agenda for the future is new, unique, and really exciting.”

Summit participants developed a comprehensive action agenda. One of its key points is a recommitment to the Community Imperative, which states that no one should live in an institution because of disability. The way to achieve this vision is to increase the community choices available to people with disabilities and to provide well-trained support staff. Ultimately, this will lead to the closing of all institutions. 

Energized and focused by the AFP Summit, NADSP leadership is assessing opportunities for further collaboration on the AFP agenda and taking the lead on workforce issues. We have 30 affiliates in 21 states already working on our mission and goals, which align with those of AFP. We must continue efforts to require quality inclusive community services for everyone.

NADSP Vice President Cliff Poetz saw the AFP Summit as a time to focus on overcoming both real and perceived barriers — barriers that make employment, daily living, recreation, and ultimately full community inclusion difficult to attain. “We need to do a better job providing transportation in both rural and urban settings” he remarked. “Vocational opportunities that include individualized supports by well-trained staff must become a reality.” He also suggests outreach to communities to help them understand dignity of risk and that health and safety, though key components of anyone’s life, should not be the sole factor in decision-making and determining quality. As part of this outreach, Cliff feels that we need to do more to dispel myths about hiring people of differing abilities, including the perceived difficulty and expense of providing accommodations. AFP participants also recognized that these barriers are often similar to those faced by the people providing direct support. This is why NADSP is a part of the AFP — to include people with disabilities, and by so doing, encourage those who support them to achieve life goals.

Individuals and organizations that would like to be part of NADSP’s efforts can learn about opportunities by contacting their local affiliate. A list of local affiliates is available at The more people get involved, the more we can accomplish by combining our voices at the grass roots and the front lines.