Real Work Stories Inspire Job Creation Success


Finding a good job is never easy. For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), this journey may seem even more daunting—both for them, and the employment professionals who support them.

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston has created a website called Real Work Stories that highlights numerous stories of the use of successful strategies for employing people with IDD. Created as part of a study funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, and aimed at employment professionals, individuals with disabilities, and their family members, the site highlights creative ways to find jobs or create businesses.

Jennifer Bose, a research data coordinator at the ICI, spearheads the recruitment and interviewing of the individuals with IDD and the writing of their stories.

“We want to highlight a variety of employment strategies, including engaging family members, using professional and personal networks to find work, turning volunteer or internship positions into jobs, and creating or negotiating a job,” Bose notes. One such strategy is known in the field as the “discovery process.”

This process takes some time, but the results make it worth the effort. Rather than just taking a person to a job or an interview, or responding to an ad for work, employment specialists can use the discovery process to get to know the person they support. This involves watching them working in different situations, seeing what they do well, and observing how they interact with their community.

One of the best examples on the Real Work Stories site is Corey Alley’s business sorting recycling. Corey, who has IDD, lives in Millinocket, Maine, and enjoys spending time out in the community. Unfortunately, he had difficulty concentrating on his work, and soon developed a reputation as a person who didn’t stay with one job.

Corey is being supported by Katahdin Friends Incorporated (KFI), who used the discovery process not only to help him find work, but to start his own business.

Staff members helped Corey volunteer at various community organizations, hoping something would pique his interest. And sure enough, they discovered that Corey absolutely took to recycling—hauling recyclables, sorting them, and even interacting with the people at the transfer station.

Failing to find work through the city or local trash companies, the team at KFI helped Corey to begin his own small company, Alley’s Recycling, which has been running now for over six years.

“Having training helps you understand how people work, and what supports help them,” Bose says. The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services online curricula help employment specialists understand a variety of different approaches. “This training can help you see people as individuals, beyond the label of the disability,” Bose explains. “It’s about finding a great match between the person with certain skills and interests and the right employer.”

To visit the Real Work Stories website, please visit:

For more information on Katahdin Friends Incorporated, please visit:

For more information on the College of Employment Services,

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