With a bipartisan proposal, members of Congress are pushing a new plan to increase competitive, integrated employment for young people with developmental disabilities.

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this month would establish a demonstration program aimed at improving the transition from school to work.

The legislation known as the Customized Approaches to Providing and Building Independent Lives of Inclusion for Transition-aged Youth, or CAPABILITY, Act, H.R.3070, would establish six grants to states to support pre-employment transition services for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism.

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The focus of the program would be on helping individuals access employment opportunities where they work alongside those with and without disabilities and where they are paid at similar rates to typically-developing workers doing the same jobs.

Current federal law requires that high schools work with existing disability support systems serving adults to help people with developmental disabilities transition into the workforce. But with limited funding, that doesn’t always happen and just 1 in 5 young people with intellectual disabilities are employed, according to the lawmakers behind the new bill.

The proposed legislation would help bridge that gap, they said.

“The CAPABILITY Act will provide access to customized employment plans and competitive integrated employment so that every person is empowered to achieve their version of the American Dream,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who introduced the bill along with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.

If approved, the measure calls for states to be selected for the four-year grants based on their ability to show that they have a plan to work with local employers and use evidenced-based models to ensure employment of people with developmental disabilities who participate.

In addition, states that receive grant money would be required to report on their outcomes from the services offered in an effort to provide a model for other states. The bill would also require the secretary of labor to produce a report to Congress on the impact of the grants in order to inform future policy decisions.

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