The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new barriers for youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YADs) to achieve employment. Disruption to services and the shift to remote programming and learning has made it more difficult for some Y&YADs to access programs that prepare them for the workforce, such as career and technical education and work-based learning experiences. In addition, Y&YADs experience higher unemployment and rates of withdrawal from the workforce during economic downturns, such as the recession accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to elevated levels of trauma and emotional distress worldwide. Y&YADs are at greater risk of experiencing trauma than youth without disabilities, and emotional distress as a result of the pandemic can put them at risk for the long-term employment consequences of unresolved trauma.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not affected everyone equally. Y&YADs with specific intersecting identities (including those experiencing homelessness, from low-income households or involved in the foster care system) may experience even greater impacts from the pandemic. For example, a youth with disabilities from a low-income family may lack broadband and other technology necessary to fully access remote learning and remote workforce services.
States have taken a number of approaches to mitigate the barriers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:
- Transferring work-based learning, career and technical education (CTE) content, transition planning tools and other career preparation resources to online platforms;
- Making assistive technology, laptops and Wi-Fi available to students with disabilities to access remote learning content;
- Assisting schools and school districts in providing or adapting accommodations to remote environments;
- Training educators and workforce service providers on supporting Y&YADs amid the pandemic, including providing effective remote and hybrid instruction and updating and supplementing individualized education programs (IEPs);
- Engaging families to help them support Y&YADs amid distance learning and transition planning, and training school officials on how to best facilitate that engagement;
- Addressing the mental health needs of Y&YADs that have arisen or been exacerbated during the pandemic, including offering tele-counseling and other support services;
- Engaging in interagency collaboration to better address and understand the unique needs of Y&YADs amid the pandemic;
- Improving data collection efforts to understand which populations of Y&YADs are experiencing particularly significant barriers; and
- Developing and delivering supports to certain populations who have experienced the greatest disruption of services due to the pandemic, such as youth experiencing homelessness or those from low-income families.
Texas Vocational Rehabilitation Services offers Online Student Transition Fairs to help Y&YADs plan their futures through career exploration and connect with employers during the pandemic. Online Student Transition Fairs include job fairs, career fairs, transition education events and other events for Y&YADs.
The Vermont Department of Education created the Implementing Transition Services During Remote Learning resource, which provides recommendations for the continuation of transition services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This CAPE-Youth brief outlines state-level strategies policymakers and program administrators can utilize to support Y&YADs in securing employment and reemployment throughout and following the COVID-19 economic recession, including leveraging federal funds and increasing access to employment services.
This CAPE-Youth blog discusses strategies community colleges have used to continue serving students with disabilities throughout the pandemic and meet additional needs (including mental health needs) that have arisen. Strategies include providing individualized support, delivering accessible content and services and collaborating with community partners.
This CAPE-Youth brief discusses state strategies for maintaining and increasing participation and performance of students with disabilities in CTE, both during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes strengthening interagency collaboration and increasing the capacity of CTE instructors to serve students with disabilities.
This CAPE-Youth webpage provides an overview of ways states are continuing to serve Y&YADs throughout the pandemic across seven key areas: assistive technology, distance learning, family engagement, IEPs, mental health, telehealth and transition. The resource also includes pages for each state highlighting their specific programs and adaptations.
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