Success at work!

This article is featured courtesy of Karla Lynch, Employment and Community Access Program Manager, with Department of Community and Human Services

When we think about our careers, and how we landed in our present jobs, we recognize that each path is unique. The same is true for persons with developmental disabilities (DD). In the early days of the supported employment movement, most people who experienced a developmental disability worked in sheltered workshops – segregated settings in which persons with DD worked together, typically performing a variety of manual tasks.

As we’ve learned more about how to effectively support persons with DD, employment opportunities have expanded to community businesses, and both the state and federal government have provided guidance to transition all employment opportunities for persons with DD to the community by March 2019. This transition has been happening in King County for some time with the majority of individuals currently supported in jobs in the community. The King County Developmental Disabilities Division (KCDDD) continues to provide Technical Assistance, Person-Centered Planning and other supports to individuals, families, and service providers who are transitioning to community employment.

Lonnie’s journey: Finding the right fit 

Lonnie began working in sheltered employment at SKCAC Industries and Employment Services in 1990. His first community-based jobs included positions with Clowns Unlimited, the Washington Patrol Division, and the Kent Fire Department warehouse. He also did intermittent work for the Seattle Mariners, and the Sounders, but he wanted something more… and he was clear that money is important to him! With support from SKCAC to find the “right fit,” Lonnie now works a total of four days per week for two different companies: D & L Manufacturing in Auburn, and Yamato Transport in Kent. SKCAC supports Lonnie by checking in with his employers, and by assisting him with anything that he may need to be successful on the job.


Michele’s story: From reluctance to excitement 

In 1976, Michele connected with Northwest Center, where she began learning packaging and assembly skills. She gained confidence, skills, and established valuable and lasting friendships with her co-workers. Each year, Michele and her guardian and other support providers met to explore the idea of working in the community. Each year, Michele offered an emphatic “No!” in response. Knowing that her current work opportunity would no longer be available after March 2019, Michele eventually agreed to participate in job sampling, business tours, and visits with prior co-workers at their new places of employment. These opportunities allowed Michele to see that the skills she’d developed in the workshop could be used in the community, and she began to get excited about the idea of finding a job. In May 2017, with the support of Northwest Center, Michele accepted a position as a Lobby Attendant at Wendy’s, where she works five days per week, for two hours per shift. Each day, she eagerly arrives at work with a beaming smile, ready to put on her apron and do her job. She has built wonderful friendships with regular customers, and she’s the happiest she’s ever been!

To learn more about supported employment, and other services provided by the King County Developmental Disabilities Division, please call 206-263-9105 or send an email to