The process of identifying, sharing, and using knowledge and best practices. It focuses on how to improve any given business process by exploiting top-notch approaches rather than merely measuring the best performance. Finding, studying and implementing best practices provides the greatest opportunity for gaining a strategic, operational, and financial

Benefits planners

A person who interprets complex policy, rules, and procedures, administrative code, and legislative language into practical and understandable information. Under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act, Congress created a formal program, known as the Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) program, as a core employment support for people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Income. All 50 states participate in the BPAO program.

Benefits planning

The person-centered analysis of the effect that work and other life situation changes have on public and private programs, including income support programs. Benefits planning helps people with disabilities steer through the maze of public and private benefits programs while minimizing disincentives and barriers that exist for them to prepare for, obtain, advance in, retain, leave, and regain employment.

Blended Funding

Funding which pools dollars from multiple sources and makes them in some ways indistinguishable.

Braided Funding

Similar to Blended Funding, however, the funding sources remain visible while they are used in common to produce greater strength, efficiency, and/or effectiveness.

Business Leadership Networks (BLN)

Chaired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the BLN is a national program led by employers in concert with state Governor's Committees and/or community agencies that engages the leadership and participation of companies throughout the United States to hire qualified job candidates with disabilities.

Career Preparation

Core activities that help youth become prepared for a successful future in careers or post secondary education institutions including career awareness activities that expose young people to information about the job market, job related skills, the wide variety of jobs that exist and the education and training they require, as well as the work environment where they are performed. Core activities also include:

  • career assessments (formal and informal);
  • opportunity awareness including guest speaker informational interviews, research-based activities such as wage comparisons and Web searches, community mapping, and exposures to post secondary education such as campus visits and college fairs, and
  • work-readiness skills such as soft-skills development, computer competency, and job search skills.
Community Rehabilitation Program

In the vocational rehabilitation system, a "community rehabilitation program" is a program that provides directly, or facilitates the provision of, vocational rehabilitation services to people with disabilities to enable them to maximize opportunities for employment. Some of the services provided by a community rehabilitation program may include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical, psychiatric, psychological, social, and vocational services that are provided under one management;
  • Recreational therapy, physical and occupational therapy, speech, language, and hearing therapy;
  • Psychiatric, psychological, and social services including positive behavior management;
  • Disability evaluations and orientation and mobility services; and,
  • Job development, placement, and retention services.

A community rehabilitation program often has in-depth knowledge about disability supports, services and providers in their communities.

Connecting Activities

Provide necessary support services for youth and enrich program content, including academic tutoring, adult and peer mentoring, assistive technology, transportation, benefits planning such as comparisons of subsidies and non-competitive wages and fringes, health maintenance such as mental health counseling and physical therapy, and post-program supports such as structured arrangements in post secondary institutions and adult service agencies (e.g., Centers for Independent Living) and connections to other services and opportunities (e.g., organized recreation such as sports and leisure activities).


The broadest definition of disability can be found in Americans With Disabilities Act:

  • a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or
  • a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

This broad definition forms the basis of civil rights of people with disabilities and is used as the core definition of disability for all the federal government legal and regulatory compliance responsibilities as it relates to both physical and programmatic access.


Regular engagement in skilled or unskilled labor or service activities for payment.

Employment Outcome

An employment outcome is a term of art used in the vocational rehabilitation system and is defined in law and regulation. An employment outcome means entering or retaining full-time or, if appropriate, part-time competitive employment in the integrated labor market; satisfying the vocational outcome of supported employment; or satisfying any other approved appropriate vocational outcome such as self employment, telecommuting or business ownership.

Family Supports & Services

Access to the following:

  • information through neutral intermediary organizations to assist in understanding causes and implications for daily living of the disability of the child;
  • information and training about effective practices and options for their child’s education and transition into post-school life (e.g. individualized education/transition plans, and navigating the adult service delivery system(s);
  • information and training about the implications of disability-centered legislation, e.g., ADA, medical services and insurance, income support, education and training; and
  • support networks that promote asset-based strategies for both youth and family members.
Informed Choice

A concept that was developed in the vocational rehabilitation system to empower people with disabilities. Informed choice refers to a person's ability to understand and use programs successfully, because the programs and services are designed to enable consumers to navigate them competently and without fear of reprisal. Individuals with disabilities need to know how to find, evaluate and use information, which will better inform their decision making process. Service delivery systems should facilitate---not stifle or direct---this decision-making process.

Program design must be accessible, synchronized with other public policy and programs, and understandable to consumers of services, family members, agency staff, service providers and others. In other words, One Stops, college career programs and other community employment programs must be accessible and available as service options. This is mandatory to ensure successful employment outcomes and to decrease administrative costs.

The concept of consumer empowerment refers to programs that allow for---and even promote---self-determination, self-advocacy, and active participation in the decision-making process at the individual and systems levels. Making meaningful and informed choices also means full involvement in the selection of employment outcomes, services needed to achieve those outcomes, providers of services, and the methods used to secure those services. The agencies and staff are responsible for providing an environment, which facilitates choice. Participants with disabilities have the responsibility to complete their part of the agreement. Informed choices imply expressed responsibilities.

In a January 2001 guidance memo, the Rehabilitation Services Administration outlined the following necessary ingredients to be available to individuals, or if appropriate, individuals through their representatives:

  • Make decisions related to the assessment process and to selection of the employment outcome and the settings in which employment occurs, vocational rehabilitation services, service providers, the settings for service provision, and the methods for procuring services;
  • Have a range of options from which to make these decisions or, to the extent possible, the opportunity to create new options that will meet the specific rehabilitation needs;
  • Have access to sufficient information about the consequences of various options;
  • Have skills for evaluating the information and for making decisions, or, to the extent possible, the opportunity to develop such skills or support and assistance in carrying out these functions;
  • Make decisions in ways that reflect individual strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, and interests; and,
  • Take personal responsibility, to the extent possible, for implementing the chosen options.
Intermediary Organization

An agent that

  • Convenes local leadership and broker relationships with multiple partners across multiple funding streams;
  • Brings together workforce development systems, vocational rehabilitation providers, businesses, labor unions, educational institutions, social service organizations, faith based organizations, transportation entities, health providers, and other Federal, State, and community resources which youth with disabilities need to transition to employment successfully.

Possible intermediaries include, but are not limited to, community- based non-profit organizations, faith-based and community organizations, employer organizations, community colleges, and community rehabilitation programs.


A structured activity, built upon a trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee.


A principle, plan, or course of action established in statute, regulation, or proclamation by an elected chief executive or a federal, state, or local governing body.

Preparatory Experiences

Educational programs grounded in standards, clear performance expectations and graduation exit options based upon meaningful, accurate, and relevant indicators of student learning and skills that include the following:

(To find out more read the Preparatory Experiences HOT Topic here.)

  • academic programs that are based on clear state standards,
  • career and technical education programs that are based on professional and industry standards,
  • curricular and program options based on universal design of school, work and community-based learning experiences,
  • learning environments that are small and safe,
  • supports from and by highly qualified staff,
  • access to an assessment system that includes multiple measures, and
  • graduation standards that include options.
Program Navigators

These positions exist in a growing number of One Stop Centers to build staff capacity and work with people with disabilities and service providers to access, facilitate, and navigate the complex statutory and regulatory provisions and application processes for public and private programs.


The movement of youth into employment, post-school education, independent living, and community participation. Under IDEA legislation there are specific transition requirements for youth with disabilities that includes development of an Individualized Transition Plan (ITP).

Work-based Learning

A supervised program sponsored by an education or training organization that links knowledge gained at the worksite with a planned program of study. Experiences range in intensity, structure, and scope and include activities as diverse as site visits, job shadowing, paid and unpaid internships, structured on-the-job training, and the more formal work status as apprentice or employee. (To find out more read the Work-based Learning HOT Topic here.)

Workforce Development System

The term workforce development system encompasses organizations at the national, state, and local levels that have direct responsibility for planning, allocating resources (both public and private), providing administrative oversight and operating programs to assist individuals and employers in obtaining education, training, job placement, and job recruitment.

Included in this broad network are several federal agencies charged with providing specific education and/or training support and other labor market services such as labor market information. At the state and local levels the network includes state and local workforce investment boards, state and local career and technical education and adult education agencies, vocational rehabilitation agencies, recognized apprenticeship programs, state employment and unemployment services agencies, state and local welfare agencies, and/or sub-units of these entities.

A wide array of organizations provide direct education, training, or employment services (e.g. technical schools, colleges, and universities, vocational rehabilitation centers, apprenticeship programs community based organizations, one-stop centers, welfare to work training programs, literacy programs, Job Corp Centers, unions, and labor/management programs).

The NCWD/Youth focus centers on the organizations within this broad system that are concerned with the initial preparation of an individual for the world of work and individuals in the general age range of 14-25.

Workforce Investment Board (WIB)

A WIB is an appointed body, certified by the Governor to set policy, guide implementation, and provide oversight to the local workforce development system, as authorized by Public Law 105-220, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.

The WIB is also a forum for planning workforce development strategies. The Board attempts to anticipate economic and business trends, develop community linkages and partnerships, and provide a focus on system outcomes.


The period in life between childhood and maturity, known as adolescence. Generally speaking, given the requirements of programs NCWD/Youth will address, the age range for youth is between 14 and 25, although it may extend as low as 12 and as high as 29. Youth can be both in and out of school.

Youth Development

A process that prepares young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through a coordinated, progressive series of activities and experiences which help them to become socially, morally, emotionally, physically, and cognitively competent. Spans five basic developmental areas in which all young people need to learn and grow:

Thriving, Leading, Connecting, Learning, and Working. Includes mentoring activities designed to establish strong relationships with adults through formal and informal settings, peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities; and exposure to role models in a variety of contexts. (To find out more read the Youth Development/Youth Leadership HOT Topic here.)

Youth Leadership

An internal and external process leading to (1) “the ability to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence the opinion and behavior of other people, and show the way by going in advance (Wehmeyer, Agran & Hughes, 1998); and (2) "the ability to analyze one's own strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and have the self-esteem to carry them out. It includes the ability to identify community resources and use them, not only to live independently, but also to establish support networks to participate in community life and to effect positive social change." (Adolescent Employment Readiness Center, Children’s Hospital, n.d.) Emphasizes the developmental areas of Leading and Connecting and includes training in skills such as self-advocacy and conflict resolution; exposure to personal leadership and youth development activities, including community service; and opportunities that allow youth to exercise leadership. (To find out more read the Youth Development/Youth Leadership HOT Topic here.)