Those of us who experience disability in Colorado have reason to be hopeful at the appointment of Joelle Brouner as our new Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. We have heard from folks in Washington State, where she hails from, and here in Colorado that Ms. Brouner is both “feisty” and understands that many people underestimate the employment contribution of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also reportedly has significant knowledge of supported and customized employment and how to get it working here in Colorado.
The fact the Joelle is from Washington State is important. While Colorado languishes at 23% of people with an intellectual and developmental disability employed (with most people being served in congregate group “employment” situations), Washington is tops in the nation at 65% (with most in individualized employment, AKA real jobs). Truth be known, the Colorado Department of Human Services has been in the position of leading the nation in this area… only problem is it was twenty years ago when over 50% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were employed in community settings! We are hopeful that Ms. Brouner will provide the spark necessary to replicate Washington State’s success in providing real jobs for real pay!