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Roles for Youth with Disabilities
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July 16, 2002 -- One of every 12 children and teenagers in the U.S. has a recognized disability, according to data released this spring from the 2000 U.S. Census. "The rising numbers come after a period of dramatic change in the nation's approach to disabilities," writes Washington Post Staff Writer D'Vera Cohn. "The rising numbers already present a challenge to school systems and other public agencies." (Read the story online at )

Our July 23 E-Letter looks at Census 2000's findings on disability.

Young people with disabilities face considerable obstacles moving from school to the work force, says InfoUse's Alice Wong. "One third of students in special education drop out of high school before graduating. Among those who complete high school, over 40 percent remain unemployed after five years." It may be that teachers and parents expect less from students with disabilities. Students with disabilities often have lower expectations for themselves, and are twice as likely than their non-disabled peers to have no plans for education beyond high school.

"Developing a positive self-concept and realistic career expectations must take place early in the process of preparing for the workplace," says InfoUse. "Role models with whom students can identify and who share their interests can help motivate students to think about exploring careers they have not thought of as realistic options." InfoUse's new Role Models for Youth with Disabilities Project is developing a CD-ROM and a video featuring sixty role models in a wide range of occupations. To participate, contact Wong at; visit InfoUse online at

The National Youth Leadership Council, formed following a 1997 national conference in Washington, DC., "dedicated to advancing the next generation of disability leaders," is holding its 2002 National Youth Leadership Conference July 26 - 29, 2002 at the Hyatt Regency Washington -- the organization says it hopes to "help prepare the next generation of disability leaders, and to identify ways to improve policies and supports for young people with disabilities." The Council is composed of young leaders with disabilities who have attended past conferences. Some have formed the National Youth Leadership Network -- NYLN -- which says its mission is to "increase opportunities for young people with disabilities to build successful lives." For more on the group and its conference, go to

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