Frontline Initiative Employment Supports

Real jobs:
It's everybody's business


James F. Gardner, PhD is the President of Alliance for Full Participation.

The Alliance for Full Participation (AFP) has launched its new campaign — “Real Jobs—It’s Everybody’s Business.” The Alliance for Full Participation is a formal partnership of leading developmental disabilities organizations with a common vision – to create a better and more fulfilling quality of life for people with developmental disabilities. The AFP’s goal is to double the employment rate for people with disabilities by 2015. We’re serious about this goal, energized by our spirit of collaboration, and dedicated to making real employment a reality for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “real jobs” means an end to the sheltered workshops and the new reality of fully integrated employment for all people. “Real jobs” means real paychecks, which enable individuals to afford housing, food, clothing and the supports and services necessary for them to live - and work - in the communities of their choice. In a very concrete way, “real jobs” will support people to live out their dreams and aspirations, a goal we can all identify with. Unfortunately, the employment rate for people with developmental disabilities is only 22%, compared to 79% for typical Americans. This has forced people who could live independently to depend heavily on others to define and support their choices.

The denial of employment opportunity is not just a problem for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Lack of employment opportunity and economic resources for any citizen hinders community development. Greater financial independence will decrease the burden on families, on government and community social services programs, and on Medicaid. Discovering new employment opportunities and assets also means that our communities can more easily enjoy the benefits of the energy, imagination, hard work and economic growth from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Just as the problem affects us all, and its resolution benefits us all, we all have a role to play in making real jobs a reality. Our campaign begins at the state level, where we’re forming teams of people with developmental disabilities, employers, coworkers, business organizations, service providers, government officials, family members, advocacy organizations, and members of the general community. Read more in this issue of Frontline Initiative on how to get involved in your state team. 

Everyone can contribute to AFP’s effort. There are opportunities and roles that will match your energy, commitment, and talents. If you’d like to be a part of this historic effort, you can begin by registering on this website and/ or on our Facebook page, www. We look forward to working with you over the months ahead, and to making our goal of doubling employment for people with developmental disabilities a reality.