The University of Memphis Institute on Disability (UMID) has formed The Partnership
in Disability Studies to assist people with physical and developmental disabilities
find meaningful and lasting employment. Our vision is to form alliances with government,
private, academic and legal entities to research and develop programs which encourage
people with disabilities to pursue a higher education toward graduation and employment.
Expert Evaluation & Consultation
The projects of the institute focus on the theoretical model of a Systems Approach
to evaluate participants. The Systems Approach to Placement was created in the early
1980's by Dr. Chrisann Schiro-Geist and her co-author, Dr. William Calzaretta in their
book, Placement Handbook for Counseling Persons with Disabilities. In this theoretical
model, there must be a systematic review of several important domains that affect
the ability of anyone who wants to work competitively. In addition, issues related
to the impairment, social aspects of disability, family systems and accommodations
to the world of work, are assessed. Using this systematic evaluation, an individual
plan is created to help the person with the disability move towards competitive employment.
Research & Evidence
Historically, young adults with intellectual disabilities have not had special programming
targeted at their needs when working on creating a vocational goal. They are usually
treated as adults, and often receive no special programming at all, but rather are
left to care for themselves or are given menial work to do at sub-minimum wage. The
program developed at the University of Memphis to remedy this issue is called TigerLIFE.
It is based on the model program,Think College, which was developed in response to
the 2008 USA Higher Education Act.
Young Adults aged 18-28 are engaged in a series of activities on the campus of the
University of Memphis for a 2 year program which includes coursework in self-advocacy,
independent living skills, functional literacy and job placement, as well as an orientation
to the university. They engage in social internships on campus and audit appropriate
coursework after career development assessment and activities are completed. With
the help of Vocational Rehabilitation, they are placed in paid internships. Upon graduation,
their competitive job placement rate is 64%.
The team is working on data comparing the placement of these students with disabilities
to other persons with disabilities on a state and national basis, using a longitudinal
database. Data will also be presented on their personal improvement as students and
workers and how they think and feel about work. Comparisons will also be made to other
transitions programs and to other state and national work done in this area. A qualitative
study on this population is also in progress.
The team is actively working on examining the results of previously collected data
on therapy with persons with intellectual disabilities and expanding the model use
of the MOPI assessment instrument to other populations, such as incarcerated women
and persons with other disabilities.
The L.A.D.D.E.R. project (Learning and Achievement to Decrease Dependency through
Education and Rehabilitation) is a joint program between the Institute on Disability
and the Shelby County Division of Correction. Its purpose is to examine and implement
a systems approach to vocational rehabilitation which affects offender employment
and individual recidivism.
COM*PASS (The Career Opportunities in Memphis to Promote Achievement through Self
Sufficiency) was developed to provide meaningful, training-rich employment settings
for low-income youth in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Now the Institute
seeks to promote opportunities to provide COM*PASS through partnerships with the City
of Memphis Youth Employment, Workforce Investment Network (WIN) and the Memphis Tourism
Education Foundation: the philanthropic arm of the Memphis Convention and Visitors
Bureau (MCVB). The Institute provides advocacy through training, seminars and career
guidance, which is provided to enhance career development and reduce highly dysfunctional
The Systems Approach to Placement was created in the early 1980's by Dr. Chrisann
Schiro-Geist and her co-author Dr. William Calzaretta in their book, Placement Handbook
for Counseling Persons with Disabilities. This approach offers a systematic review
of the domains which affect people with disabilities to help them move toward competitive
The Institute on Disability is a clearing house for resources and services for persons
with disabilities to transition toward employment. The Institute proactively develops
partnerships with academic, social welfare, government, business, non-profits and
all other organizations that seek to promote employment opportunities for people with
We serve as an advocate on behalf of people with disabilities in the educational arena,
secondary and post-secondary to help facilitate successful transitions between the
two formal educational settings to promote success with students that have disabilities.
The Institute also serves as an advocate for people with disabilities to provide assessment,
evaluation and placement of clients recently released from local penal systems. Advocacy
helps promote reentry into society and assists them in developing skills that will
enhance opportunities for meaningful employment while reinforcing life skills that