Improving inclusive education and successful adult living, learning and earning outcomes for youth with disabilities.

In New York City, the monolithic 69th Regiment Armory contains a high school-age special education classroom where students with disabilities learn academic skills within a context of building, construction, and remodeling. They build to code, use power tools, and work as a team. Each finished product is in fact a demonstration of an array of skill mastery that cannot be found in a traditional classroom setting. Carlos was one of the graduates of this program.

After graduation, Carlos walked by a Bronx barbershop. He saw the owner attempting to remodel the the shop and pointed out a better way of accomplishing the same work. The owner asked him how he learned these skills. Carlos said, “Look, I went to trade school for this.” The owner asked him to show up for work the next day. From Carlos’ point of view, career development is an ongoing process that combines ambition, learning practical skills, and a long term view of things: “I want to work in a big-ass building and build stuff.”

Successful transitions to adult life happen one young person at a time, with the support and guidance provided by family members, educators, and community partners – including businesses. The transition process begins with individualized, student-centered and future-focused planning, with an understanding that many future careers have not yet been created. Our systems of education, community support, and career development must therefore be agile, reflecting the changing labor market, culture, and talents of all youth, including youth with disabilities.

Through years of research, the Yang-Tan Institute has developed practical solutions that are resulting in new opportunities for youth with disabilities. We leverage interactive web sites and distance learning tools so audiences from diverse locations, can explore ideas through online discussion, planning and reflection. Our professional development work with educators and agency professionals inspires shared leadership and broadly adopted innovations. Overall, we are engaging in a collaborative dialogue among policymakers, agency professionals, businesses, families and students -- advancing positive outcomes for youth with disabilities.