The Easterseals Disability Staffing Network (EDSN, pronounced “Edison”) empowers people with disabilities to obtain integrated, competitive employment. It is a social venture employment agency that will match people with disabilities with a wide range of private sector employers.
Within the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia, there are 538,291 working age people with disabilities (PwD) (ages 18-64) living in the community. Of those, only 206,699 were employed for an employment rate of 38%. 331,592 individuals were not employed. People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty (2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, Institute on Disability, University of New Hampshire).
As society moves away from segregated workshops and toward integrated, competitive employment, new approaches are critical. There has been a long evolution in the field of disability employment from sheltered workshops to NISH/Ability One to Employment First customized employment. The EDSN model is another piece of this evolution. At present, there is a systemic disconnect between supported employment agencies (and their qualified potential employees) and companies that want to hire. Building on our success in creating new employment markets for thousands of veterans (many of whom have disabilities) with our self-sustaining Veteran Staffing Network (VSN), we are adapting the VSN model to address employment for people with disabilities.
Easterseals has worked with local Voc Rehab (VR), Supported/Customized Employment and state agencies to understand the barriers to helping more of their clients obtain employment. The answer is clear. As a whole, the industry lacks business development skills and does not have the resources to build them. Supported employment is highly personalized, labor intensive and not scalable. In that way, it does not meet businesses’ basic needs—filling the many jobs they have quickly. Businesses that understand the value of hiring people with disabilities are not interested in sourcing a single person from several different agencies. They want one point of contact that provides dozens of candidates.
EDSN serves as that intermediary, obtaining job orders and recruiting from the area’s hundreds of employment service providers to source candidates. We are a regional recruiting/business development service, working with business clients to develop jobs in which people with disabilities can succeed. EDSN layers this expertise on top of the existing system of vocational rehabilitation, training, and specialized/customized employment agencies. Candidates continue to receive onsite job coaching from their original agency. This results in more/better jobs for people with disabilities.
Additionally, EDSN trains employers on how to successfully integrate people with disabilities into their workforce and present qualified candidates who are loyal, motivated, and excited to be at work. We need to use business-focused, market-based solutions to lower turnover, increase morale, and decrease absenteeism. Our model breaks down barriers for employers by utilizing a temp-to-hire model that allows companies to try out employees.
Do you want to learn more about EDSN? Do you currently receive SSI or SSDI and want to work? We can help through the Ticket to Work Program.
Contact: Laurie Armstrong at 240.847.7492 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you an individual with disabilities who wishes to work or needs benefits counseling?
Contact: Vera Damanka at 240.847.7491 or email@example.com
EDSN is made possible through a major grant from the Kessler Foundation.