Kessler Foundation Press Releases

Kessler Foundation Grants $282K to Implement Customized Employment Strategies for People with Developmental Disabilities in Maryland

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WEST ORANGE, N.J. January 7, 2016—Kessler Foundation awarded a two-year, $282,000 grant to Supported Employment Enterprise Corporation (SEEC) to launch the “Maryland Customized Employment Project”—an initiative to improve employment outcomes for individuals with developmental disabilities through holistic, collaborative partnerships with jobseekers and their families, state agencies and employers. The grant is part of $2.3 million distributed by Kessler Foundation to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create and expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Customized employment is designed to help jobseekers find employment that fits their skills and interests, while also helping employers fill needs within their workplace with talented individuals. In the Discovery process, job seekers work to identify their talents, needs, interests, and ideal conditions for success in the workplace. State agencies then work with employers to identify needs in their workplace—instead of just responding to job postings—and match the job seeker with the employer.

“Getting more people with developmental disabilities into the workforce improves their self-worth, identity, financial independence and overall quality of life,” said Elaine E. Katz, senior vice president of Grants and Communications at Kessler Foundation. “Through the innovative, holistic approach of Customized Employment, we are hopeful that the needs of job seekers will be matched with the needs of employers to create lasting, mutually-beneficial employment. In addition, the improved training of service providers should spark widespread change across Maryland to help large numbers of individuals with disabilities find employment. This model will implement and evaluate best practices that can be replicated in other states across the United States.”

The project will support Maryland’s statewide efforts to improve the employment rate of individuals with developmental disabilities by addressing barriers to employment. Strategies include: (1) educating and developing staff competencies of disability service providers to deliver customized employment supports; (2) providing supports to job seekers to complete the Discovery process; (3) empowering families to access resources and develop networks to support their loved ones efforts to find paid employment; (4) creating Business Advisory Councils to raise awareness, create employment opportunities and mentor other employers who want to hire people with developmental disabilities.

To accomplish project goals, SEEC will hire Marc Gold and Associates, national leaders in Customized Employment, to provide workshops on Discovery and Job Development for state service providers throughout the year. Selected staff will earn their certification and will be paired with a job seeker who is ready to go through the Discovery process. SEEC will collaborate with five adult service providers, the Maryland Department of Disabilities and the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration.

According to the 2013 Annual Report on the Commission on People with Disabilities, there are more than 90,000 people with developmental disabilities. They are three times more likely to live in poverty than those without disabilities. Among the working-age segment of this population, 80 percent are unemployed. 

About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit Follow Kessler Foundation on Facebook (, Twitter (@KesslerFdn) and YouTube (

Lauren Scrivo, 973.768.6583,
Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382,