Will Calls for Focus on Careers for Handicapped
Washington--Speaking on a topic that has become one of her major concerns since taking office, Madeleine C. Will, assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services, urged those attending the Council for Exceptional Children's conference here last week to work toward eliminating the "artificial barriers" that prevent handicapped individuals from making the transition from school to work.
Ms. Will said that the handicapped have made significant advances over the last decade. But the goals of those whose aim is to continue that progress, she added, should be focused now on improving the lives of the handicapped after they have completed school.
Educators and advocates of the handicapped, Ms. Will said, must be concerned with ensuring that the lives of handicapped adults are "productive and integrated with the rest of society."
"The major challenges we face are not merely limited resources," Ms. Will said. "In my view," she explained, the "major challenges" are finding assistance for handicapped persons in agencies that have not traditionally provided such services or have limited dealings with the handicapped.
Problems of Transition
She cited as problems the tenuous relationship that exists between officials in regular and special-education programs in the schools; the lack of meaningful job-training programs for handicapped students in the high schools; and the lack of communication between schools and the medical community on medical breakthroughs relating to certain handicapping conditions.
Ms. Will, who established transitional programs for the handicapped as one of the U.S. Education Department's priorities after being named to her post last year, has been involved in the development of an initiative designed to encourage more employment and training opportunities for disabled people.
The initiative, which is outlined in a policy paper prepared by department staff, would address five interrelated problems that now affect the ability of handicapped students to make the transition from school to work, according to Thomas Bellamy of the office of special-education and rehabilitative services.
Mr. Bellamy said the proposal calls for state demonstration grants aimed at improving special-education programs at the high-school level, creating incentives for employers to hire handicapped persons, increasing educational opportunities in postsecondary institutions, increasing supported-work opportunities, and making better use of job training and placement services for the handicapped.
The department is still in the process of developing the procedures for some of the problem areas identified, according to Mr. Bellamy. But he added the department has already begun some activities with postsecondary schools.
In her speech, Ms. Will said that communities should begin to build partnerships among the various agencies that offer services for handicapped students and "define responsibilities" for improving work opportunities for handicapped adults.
In the future, Ms. Will said, special education may take place outside the traditional classroom and in settings where handicapped persons can receive employment training that corresponds with their interests.