In a previous blog, there was a mention of competitive integrated employment. Competitive integrated employment (CIE) is having people with disabilities earn the same pay as others without disabilities. It means those with disabilities can work where people without disabilities work. Most importantly it means equal pay for equal work. It is also the preferred outcome for people with disabilities. According to the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center, a more expansive definition of competitive integrated employment is work that is performed on a full-time or part-time basis; is not less than the customary rate paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by other employees who are not individuals with disabilities; that is at a location where the employee interacts with other persons who are not individuals with disabilities not including supervisory personnel or individuals who are providing services to such employee; presents opportunities for advancement that are similar to those for other employees who are not individuals with disabilities and who have similar positions. The Competitive Integrated Employment Toolkit states that work for individuals with disabilities should be employment the individual wants. No one should be forced or pushed to work anywhere that they do not want to work. Personally, when I was in high school and college, I was strongly encouraged to work every summer at a particular store in my town. I did not want to work there but nobody else wanted to hire me. It was frustrating but it taught me at a young age to be a better advocate for myself and for others. Each person with a disability will have a different perspective on what they want to do so it is up to them to find out what they want to do and then it is up to their network (family, friends, job coach, DVR counselor, etc) to help them find a job that is mutually beneficial for the individual with the disability and the business. Competitive integrated employment can be improved by having more students with disabilities start transition services in high school. In NJ the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) can provide transition services for students with disabilities starting at 14. These transition services may include Pre-employment transition services or Pre-ETS. Pre-ETS include job counseling, work-based experiences (internships), information on additional education (which could be funded by DVR), workplace social skills training, and self-advocacy information. NJ DVR should continue to pursue Disability Innovation Funding which funds projects to get people with disabilities out of subminimum wage jobs and into competitive integrated employment. The time to think out of the box is now and it is on the entire disability community and businesses to make NJ a model employer for individuals with disabilities.