Disabilities can be an important part of a young person’s identity and can contribute to their life in many ways. These identities shape how young people with disabilities foster their strengths, interests, and diverse perspectives on the world around them.
At the same time, youth with physical, mental, intellectual, and/or sensory disabilities often face environmental and attitudinal barriers to access and fully participate in home, school, work, and social activities. An attitudinal barrier can be an unconscious bias, or unintentional preference, for someone who does not have a disability – even if the person with a disability is fully qualified for a position. As a result, some youth need additional supports to successfully navigate these barriers and achieve career and life goals consistent with their desires and talents. The following sections highlight some of these challenges and resources that can help service providers, educators, parents, and anyone working with youth embrace and promote disability inclusion.
Of the 62 million children in the United States who are under age 15, almost 10 percent have a disability.1 Among children aged 6 to 14, more than 1 in 10 children have a disability, and more than 1 in 20 children in this age group have a severe disability.2 It is also important to note the prevalence of youth with disabilities in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, which are covered in the section on special populations.
Guideposts for Success
This research-based policy and practice framework, developed by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), delineates what all youth, including those with disabilities, need to transition successfully and these findings can be used to support the development of an inclusive service delivery strategy.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
This website from the U.S. Department of Education provides detailed information and resources on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); including the IDEA statute and regulations, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) policy documents, letters, and memos. Resources for youth, families, educators, service providers, and other key stakeholder groups are provided with information on children ages birth to 2, and 3 to 21.
National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD)
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, assists state and local workforce development systems to better serve all youth, including youth with disabilities and disconnected youth.
Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Information and Resources on Youth in Transition
ODEP, a federal agency that promotes policies and coordinates with employers and all levels of government to increase workplace success for people with disabilities, has an array of information and resources for youth in transition navigating the road to employment. Resources are designed for youth, families, youth service professionals, and policymakers.
Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers
These Centers perform a variety of direct services for children and youth with disabilities, families, professionals, and other organizations that support them, including working with families of young people with disabilities, helping parents participate effectively in their children’s education and development, and partnering with professionals and policy makers to improve outcomes for all youth with disabilities.
Understand your abilities and disabilities. Play to your strengths. (PDF, 28 pages)
This resource shares responses from young people with disabilities to discussion questions around labels, assumptions, strengths, impairments, and other topics. These vignettes provide the foundation for taking self-determined actions as well as offer insight into what it is like to live with a disability in a way that parents may not be exposed to.