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Abstract

This study describes the implementation and findings of a pilot community conversations event in the state of Oregon to identify innovative solutions to under- and unemployment experienced by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The event was facilitated in partnership with the University of Oregon UCEDD, local Arc chapter, and other relevant community stakeholders. A total of 36 diverse individuals (e.g., school personnel, business owners, individuals with IDD, and caregivers of individuals with IDD) participated in a two-hour community conversations event about how to improve employment opportunities for those experiencing IDD. Participants engaged in discussions about solutions to employment challenges and completed a pre-post event survey about their experience at the event. Results from the survey and future considerations for additional community conversations are discussed.

Plain Language Summary

This paper describes a gathering of community members who worked together to find a solution to employing individuals with disabilities. Individuals from a Northwest community planned a community conversation event. This event allows for brainstorming solutions to a problem. Brainstorming occurs by bringing together different people with diverse view points. A facilitator supports brainstorming and conversations. The facilitator also takes notes so members of the event can focus on finding solutions to a problem. Over 30 people participated in this event. The event planners placed people at different tables based on their roles in the community. This allowed for people to meet and listen to diverse voices. Each table included a teacher, family member, employer, and self-advocate. Our self-advocates had an intellectual or developmental disability. Researchers helped plan the event and support community members. The research team evaluated the event to help the community members collect and analyze data. This paper presents a description of the event and findings from the event. Data collected from this event suggest that community conversations are a positive catalyst to change. Participants enjoyed meeting other members in their communities. Participants also appreciated a group of diverse individuals working together to solve a problem.

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