Most people want meaning and purpose in their lives. They want to do what makes them happy, healthy, and engaged. Some people find this meaning through work, and others may not. If someone doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean they don’t want meaningful choices and activities. Our work focuses on what people with disabilities want and need to have a meaningful day in the communities of their choice. Supporting community inclusion also means that activities, services, and supports are provided in community-based settings so all people may contribute, develop meaningful relationships, and make choices about their activities and experiences.

Models to support employment

The desire to work is one of the most important factors to getting a job, and many people with IDD do want to work. Some people use formal services from a provider to help find, secure, and maintain a job. Others rely on family and friends for support. There are a number of different models that may be used to support employment. Customized employment, supported employment, and self-employment are three models that support competitive, integrated employment in the community. However, many employment programs also have pre-vocational services, group employment (enclave), job training, and/or facility-based employment.

Employment data

Current employment statistics and data about how, when, and where people with IDD are working help us better understand the effectiveness of employment policies, services, and programs. This information tells us how the system is performing and how well groups of people with disabilities are doing in a job. Data about if people work, where people work, how much they earn, how many hours they work, and what benefits they receive tells a story about the significance of employment for people with IDD in our communities. It is also important to collect and explore data about systems and policies. How government, states, and communities invest in employment services can tell us a lot about what supports people may or may not be getting.

Economic well-being

Economic well-being means having financial security. This includes the ability of individuals, families, and communities to consistently meet their basic needs, including food, housing, utilities, health care, transportation, education, child care, and clothing, and have control over their day-to-day finances.  Economic well-being also includes the ability to make economic choices and feel a sense of security, satisfaction, and personal fulfillment with one’s personal finances and employment pursuits. When an individual or family is unemployed, underemployed, or living in poverty – factors that disproportionately affect people with disabilities – it is very difficult to maintain economic well-being.


A large number of adults with and without disabilities engage in volunteer activities that allow them to meet new people, which provides them with the opportunity to learn new skills, build their confidence, and contribute to society. Like paid employment, volunteering is one way in which people with IDD can participate in society and receive recognition for their engagement. Basic needs, personal motivation, and social recognition are central for volunteers with IDD.