Employment First: Expanding Job Opportunities and Pathways to Work


8:30—9:30am: Registration, exhibits, and networking

9:30am—4:00pm: Conference, including keynote, breakout sessions, and more

$50 per person

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about promising practices, strategies and resources that you can use as we all work together to expand employment opportunities for individuals served by the Department of Developmental Services in Massachusetts.

The program will feature remarks from Jane Ryder, the DDS Commissioner and a keynote address by Liz Weintraub, Senior Advocacy Specialist for the Association of University Centers on Disability and the host of Tuesdays with Liz.

Breakout sessions will provide you with an opportunity to learn more about best practices for supporting people to go to work, transportation, public benefits, models to support individuals with ASD, federal policy updates and more.

This statewide conference is for DDS staff and providers, educators, individuals, and family members, as well as other state agency partners. Be sure to register today!

A limited number of scholarships are available for individuals and family members. Contact Berenise Reyes- Albino at for information.

Opening Remarks

Jane Ryder

Jane Ryder Jane F. Ryder is the Commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services.  She for DDS for over 20 years, previously in the DDS Northeast Region as the Community Systems Director and the Director of Northeast Residential Services.  Prior to joining the Department, Jane was the Deputy Director at Community Teamwork Inc., a community action agency serving low income residents in the Greater Lowell Area.  Jane also worked at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Communities and Development where she was the Director of the Office of Energy Conservation. She is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross where she received a B.A. in Political Science.  She also holds master’s degrees from the McCormack Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Keynote Speaker


Liz Weintraub Liz Weintraub has a long history of leadership in self advocacy and has held many board and advisory positions at state and national organizations. She is a full-time member of the Association of University Centers on Disability’s (AUCD) policy team. Liz hosts Tuesdays With Liz: Disability Policy for All, where she works to make policies accessible to all. Liz also served a fellowship with Senator Casey of Pennsylvania.

Prior to joining AUCD, Liz worked for the Council on Quality & Leadership (CQL). Liz is an alumni from Georgia State University LEND Program. She was the chair of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council and received the Dr. Cathy Pratt award for Professional of the Year.


Public Policy to Practice: Making a Difference in Employment


David Hoff, Institute for Community Inclusion / UMass Boston

Liz Weintraub, Association of University Centers on Disability

What is public policy? What impact does it have on employment of people with disabilities? Attendees at this session will learn the answers to these questions and get the latest public policy news from a national and state perspective. We will also discuss how to get involved with public policy advocacy, and in particular the importance of self-advocates making sure their voices are heard.

Pre-Employment Transition Services Redefined: Awareness, Exploration, Preparation


Corey Grant, Triangle Inc.

Charlotte Heim, Medford High School

Jennifer Stewart, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

This presentation will provide an overview the of the new MRC Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) model and how it can work in the community. Jennifer Stewart will provide an overview of the new vision and values for Pre-ETS services and explain how new opportunities can be accessed by students with disabilities. Corey Grant, from Triangle will share his experience as a provider in redesigning their Pre-ETS programming and he will be joined by Charlotte Heim, from Medford High school to share their collaboration around this new model. This session will help you better understand Pre-ETS services, how to access them, and how to support strategies for strong school and provider collaboration.

The Commute: Tools and Strategies to Help Consumers Access Transportation to Employment


Rachel Fichtenbaum, MassMobility

Renee Lessard, Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Access to reliable, affordable transportation is a critical component of securing and retaining employment. This session will provide a brief overview of transportation services available in communities around Massachusetts, tools to use to identify local options, and strategies for supporting individuals in trying and using new options. Renee Lessard, Travel Trainer at the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, will discuss travel training and the steps she takes when she works individually to support individuals in learning the skills and knowledge they need to ride public transit buses independently and safely. Rachel Fichtenbaum of MassMobility will share information about community transportation options available in addition to transit. If you are interested in travel training but have questions, this is the session for you!

Community Based Day Supports as a Pathway to Employment


Genni Sasnett, Independent Consultant

Community based day supports are moving out of the building and providing people with a broader array of experiences and opportunities. How can you harness the CBDS experience to help the people you support to go to work? Genni Sasnett will share tips for program development that can help you maximize the value of your CBDS program and the role it plays in helping the people you serve on a pathway to employment.

Social Security Benefits and Work: What You Need to Know


Brian Forsythe, Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling, UMass Medical School

Herminio Miranda Project Impact, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

Do you have questions about the impact of employment on Social Security Benefits? This training will address some of the common myths around work and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), while providing an overview of work incentives that that can help people who want to go to work.

Positive Behavior Supports: An important tool for employment success for Individuals with complex emotional and behavioral challenges


Chris White, Road to Responsibility, Inc.

Road to Responsibility, Inc. has been implementing PBS in their day and employment services for the past several years.  Come to this session to learn about some of the successes and challenges they have experienced as they integrate PBS in community employment settings.  A brief overview of PBS will be provided along with examples of how PBS has made a difference in employment.

The Transition Years:  Charting the Course to Employment


Janice Hughes, Parent

Kerry Mahoney, The Arc of Massachusetts

Jen Sulewski, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

Charting the LifeCourse is a framework that was developed to help individuals with disabilities and families at any age or stage of life think about what they need to know, identify how to find or develop supports, and discover what it takes to live the lives they want to live. This workshop will provide an overview of the principles and frameworks and demonstrate how these can help transition age youth and young adults navigate the world of employment.  Real life experts will show the strategies and techniques they used to find jobs.

Supported Self-Employment


Jeannine Pavlak, Executive Director, New England Business Associates

With small business ownership becoming the fastest growing segment for new employment options in the United States, the New England Business Development Center is supporting individuals to become successful business owners.  These individuals not only run and manage their business but are now key players in the economic development within their communities.  Self -employment can provide the scheduling flexibility necessary to accommodate a disability, circumvents the often-challenging competitive employment process, creates financial equity options and allows individuals to bring their talents to the open market. This presentation will share success stories, provide a framework for creating a successful entrepreneur team, share challenges faced throughout the process and walk participants though all phases of process, including the development of a business plan.

Change 2.0


Genni Sasnett, Independent Consultant

Workshops are a closed and CBDS services are moving into the community.  But change is not over; it’s just beginning, as we strive to reach the promise of Employment First and true community integration. This session will talk about transformation issues as agencies work to be truly community based and to promote employment.  Approaches to effective community-based pre-employment preparation and wrap-around supports, decentralization of services, resource reallocation and teamwork for agency sustainability and other key elements of transformation will be discussed.  Come with your stories and your questions and join the conversation!  

The Role of MassHire Career Centers in Meeting the Needs of Job Seekers


Sacha Stadhard, MassHire Department of Career Services

Richard Berrena, MassHire Springfield Career Center

The state’s network of 30 MassHire Career Centers has available a wide variety of services available to job seekers. This session will take a look at the role these centers and the MassHire system as a whole can play in assisting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with their employment needs. The session will include a basic overview of MassHire services, with representatives from career centers discussing their experiences in meeting the needs of individuals with significant disabilities. Through a facilitated discussion, we will discuss strategies for partnering with MassHire to meet the employment needs of job seekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.




David Hoff, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

James Sanon, NuPath Inc.

Elder Soares, NuPath Inc.

Leigh Wilmot, NuPath Inc.

Close your eyes and picture your view of the community. Do you see walls? We don’t either. In this session we will immerse participants in the best practice in CBDS design, complemented by a journey into an innovative Without Walls program built upon these best practices. You will experience services designed and delivered free of walls and full of opportunity.

Sector Based Strategies to Support Individuals with ASD in Employment


Herb Cabral, Horace Mann Educational Associates

Sharon Smith, Work, Inc.

This session will highlight the collaborative work of providers and employers to utilize a sector-based approach to job development for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Two programs will be presented - Work, Inc’s Meaningful Jobs Initiative focused on building employer networks in the security industry and Horace Mann Educational Associates Autism Advantage @ Work focused on the IT sector and partnering with Dell.  Each program will highlight their own unique and innovative strategies and important outcomes.

Charting the Job Search Process for Individuals with Autism


Pamela Ferguson, Department of Developmental Services

Lea Hill, Department of Developmental Services

Shannon Hubley, Department of Developmental Services

Maria Stefano, Department of Developmental Services

Join four Regional Autism Program Coordinators from the Department of Developmental Services for this interactive session on employment of individuals with autism.  While the session will focus on employment for individuals with autism without intellectual disabilities it will also be relevant for all individuals conducting a job search. The panelists will walk through the employment process with a focus on strategies to address some of the unique considerations for these job seekers. Topics covered will include strategies for getting and keeping a job. The session will also address executive functioning and sensory challenges, stress and anxiety in the workplace, and tools individuals can access to be successful on the job.

College Navigator


Mary Ellen MacRae, Easter Seals

Ali Ullrich, Easter Seals

While the number of students with disabilities accepted into colleges continues to climb in the right direction, research shows that the percentage of students not finishing also continues to rise. With the changes in eligibility criteria, more individuals served by DDS are choosing high education as a pathway to a career.  Yet accessing the services and supports for success is not always easy.  The Easter Seals MA has created College Navigator to address the bridge into higher education with the ultimate goal being degree completion. This workshop will discuss some of the lessons learned and strategies to support success in college. 

Inclusive Dual Enrollment for College & Career Readiness


Carole Carlson, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

Students with intellectual disabilities/autism are getting opportunities to include college and work experiences in their transition services. These inclusive dual enrollment opportunities allow students to identify and explore a variety of interest areas and learn community-based life skills while they are still eligible for transition services, paving the way to improved preparation for integrated paid employment. The presenters will share information and stories about how inclusive dual enrollment can influence career development.

Introducing….. Customized Employment

Steve Aalto, Work Inc.

Cindy Thomas, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

Discovery, negotiated jobs, systematic instruction, conditions for success.  You hear the language of customized employment but what does it really mean and how can you begin to integrate these practices into your daily work helping people get and keep the jobs they want? This session will provide an introduction to customized employment and provide you with some strategies you can integrate into your daily work that will lead to better outcomes for the people you support.  The presenters will also introduce a new Community of Practice on Customized Employment that will be launched this summer.

Work-Based Learning: It’s More than a Job

David Hoff, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

Gaining work experience is critically important to long-term job and career success. It is important that formative work experiences for both youth and adults utilize the principles of work-based learning. This session will examine the critical factors in effective work-based learning, including the use of an interactive approach that fully engages the individual and business, using experiences that are reflective of the individual’s interests and career path status and the wide range of labor market needs, and how learning is incorporated within these experiences in a structured way. We will also discuss the incorporation of work-based learning into Pre-Employment Transition Services now available from MRC and MCB, resources available in Massachusetts to support Work Based Learning, and how individuals, educators, and service providers can effectively use work-based learning to improve and enhance employment and career outcomes.

Autism and Neurodiversity at Work: Lessons Learned from a National Perspective

David Kearon, Autism Speaks

As “Autism @ Work” and corporate neurodiversity hiring initiatives mature, we are beginning to better understand the impact of this movement. Dave Kearon, Director of Adult Services at Autism Speaks, will share his perspective on the lessons learned from these hiring programs, and how we can more efficiently build on these successes across all industries and at different job levels. He will discuss his vision for a more focused effort on creating opportunities for people across the disability spectrum – not just for those with autism spectrum disorder, nor only for those who are less impacted. People with disabilities have a wide range of interests and abilities, and it is important that the opportunities available to them reflect that diversity.

The Power of Teamwork:  The Kind of Support We Want!

Jillian Berube, MASS

Gail Delgado, MASS

Ann Fracht, MASS

Keith Miller, MASS

In this panel session, self-advocates will share with you important qualities of the employment staff who help them succeed in jobs they love. They will share their thoughts about the kind of support that helped them find a job, keep a job, or problem-solve on the job. Presenters will cover key issues and approaches that help create a strong sense of partnership and trust. They will explain why the philosophy of "Nothing About Us Without Us" is central to increasing employment for people with disabilities.

Using Career Planning and Discovery to Jump Start the Job Search

Jill Eastman, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

Lara Enein-Donovan, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

Theodora Kamenidis, Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston

Any good job search begins by reflecting on past experiences, marketable skills and work preferences.  From there, you begin to update your resume and start exploring your possibilities.  The process is no different for people you support.  Your assistance in helping them find a job should start by assessing their work goals, their current abilities, and their interests.  This presentation will focus on how to implement person-centered planning, identify personal and family networks, and develop vocational profiles.  We will discuss how to use discovery to learn more about the job seeker and to job start the job search process.  

Addressing System Challenges when Preparing Students with ID/DD for Employment

Crystal Cartwright, Amherst Regional School District

Amanda Green, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

How can school districts and providers collaborate to support students with ID/DD to achieve competitive integrated employment? Join us for a presentation and problem-solving conversation. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss powerful questions, and to suggest actionable solutions that will be shared with state agency partners. This presentation will include the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)’s vision for student-driven transition to adult life and will share experiences from Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools.



The Asperger/Autism Network works with individuals, families, and professionals to help people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and similar autism spectrum profiles build meaningful, connected lives. The network's Life Management Assistance Program (LifeMAP) provides intensive, highly individualized coaching by professionals with expertise in both AS and specific content areas. Coaches focus on identifying and overcoming the specific barriers each client faces so that clients can increase their levels of independence and reach their full potential.


The Assistive Technology Regional Center (ATRC-Boston) is operated by Easter Seals Massachusetts. The ATRC helps people with disabilities in Eastern Massachusetts to make informed decisions about assistive technology they can use to increase their independence at home, on the job, or in school. This free demonstration and loan center is funded by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, and shares the Easter Seals mission: ensuring that children and adults with disabilities have equal opportunities to live, learn, work, and play.

Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling

Work Without Limits Benefits Counseling offers individualized benefits counseling for Middlesex, Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties. Specifically, Work Without Limits provides counseling to beneficiaries who are either working or actively seeking employment, and who want to know how their earnings can impact their cash and healthcare benefits.


Provides information, support, and assistance to parents of children with disabilities, their professional partners, and their communities. We are committed to listening to and learning from families and encouraging full participation in community life by all people, especially those with disabilities. The Federation believes that individual differences in people are a natural part of life, and that disabilities provide children and adults with unique perspectives, insights and abilities which contribute to the overall well-being of society.


The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) is a research and training institute that promotes the full inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of society. The ICI is based at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Boston Children’s Hospital It is a member of the national network of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.


Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong is a statewide self-advocacy organization dedicated to empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities


Massachusetts APSE is a state chapter of National APSE (Association for People Supporting Employment First). Massachusetts APSE works to improve and expand supported employment in Massachusetts, enabling persons with disabilities to become employed in integrated community settings. Members include professionals, citizens with disabilities, their family members, employers, and anyone interested in supporting the mission of the organization.


DDS is the agency within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services that is responsible for providing services and supports to children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and adults with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Prader-Willi Syndrome, and Smith-Magenis Syndrome. The agency offers specialized services and supports, including employment supports, day supports, residential supports, family supports, respite, and transportation. DDS is currently providing services to about 37,000 individuals. DDS is dedicated to creating, in partnership with others, innovative and genuine opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate fully and meaningfully in, and contribute to, their communities as valued members.


The Massachusetts Office on Disability is the state advocacy agency that serves people with disabilities of all ages. Its primary mission is to ensure the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. MOD does this by working to advance legal rights, maximum opportunities, supportive services, accommodations, and accessibility in a manner that fosters dignity and self-determination.


The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission helps people with disabilities to live and work more independently. It provides services, resources, and training to help people pursue this independence. Just a few examples of the areas MRC works in are job placement and training, vocational rehabilitation, assistive technology, and benefit programs


MassMATCH works to increase the use of assistive technology (AT) here in Massachusetts. The program is one of 56 federally funded statewide AT initiatives in the United States. The mission of MassMATCH is to promote the use of assistive technology and AT services to enhance the independence of people with disabilities, enabling equal participation in all of life's activities.


MassMobility is a joint initiative of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and MassDOT. Its goal is to increase transportation options for people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and low-income individuals in Massachusetts. MassMobility works to build awareness of existing transportation services, and also helps organizations partner together to address gaps in the system.


MBTA Travel Training teaches seniors and persons with disabilities throughout the MBTA service area how to safely use public transportation. It provides both individualized travel training and small group system orientation at no charge to consumers.


Pathways to Friendship is a collaborative initiative on social inclusion between The Department of Developmental Services (DDS), The Arc of Massachusetts and several organizations providing residential supports to persons served by DDS. Many of us have increasingly recognized the importance of relationships and friendships in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We share the belief that relationships are critical for all of us.  Too often those we support feel isolated in their own neighborhoods. Consequently, the Pathways collaboration will work to advance relationships and friendships among people with and without disabilities. 


The six Massachusetts Regional Employment Collaboratives are partnerships of provider organizations and state agencies working to improve employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. These cross-disability initiatives are organized geographically and engage a wide variety of employers within a given region. Their efforts are focused on job development, broadening the types of employers providing opportunities for consumers, and enhancing access to career-oriented training resources.

Work Without Limits

Work Without Limits is a network of employers, educational institutions, employment service providers, and state and federal agencies.  Through collaboration and partnership, our goal is to increase the employment of people with disabilities until it is equal to those without disabilities.  Work Without Limits programs and services are geared to meet the needs of businesses that actively recruit people with disabilities, individuals with disabilities who are seeking jobs, and the employment providers that serve them.

Directions to the Royal Plaza

181 Boston Post Rd W
Marlboro, MA 01752

(781) 326-9223

From Boston and Route 128

Mass Pike West (Route 90) to Route 495 North. Take exit 24B onto Route 20 West. The Royal Plaza is one mile on your right.

From Worcester

Route 290 East to Route 495 South. Take exit 24B onto Route 20 West. The Royal Plaza is one mile on your right.

From Springfield and Western Mass

Mass Pike East (Route 90) to Route 495 North. Take exit 24B onto Route 20 West. The Royal Plaza isone mile on your right.

From Cape Cod

Route 495 North to exit 24B onto Route 20 West. The Royal Plaza is one mile on your right.