Project Name
Tech Launch Tech Career Exploration

Type of practice
Emerging practice (new, innovative and hold promise)

Area of Emphasis

Project/activity years 

Population(s) of focus
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Unserved and underserved (by Racial and ethnic minority backgrounds)
Unserved and underserved (by urban or rural geographic areas)
Unserved and underserved (by language access (English as a second language)

Strategies used
Supporting and Educating Communities
Demonstration of New Approaches to Services and Supports
Other activities

Project Description
The NYS DDPC has been funding the Tech Launch grant since late 2018. This program was designed to offer technology-based training for people with IDD to learn in-demand tech skills and career exploration opportunities, with the intent of fostering employment opportunities. Participants in the program learn how to master different hard and software skills, utilizing the technology library at Boundless Connections in Olean, NY. In addition, participants also receive soft skills training based on the Virtues Curriculum. The tech center is located in a very rural county of New York, and the staff at Boundless Connections have done targeted outreach to people with IDD and local schools, to increase employment skills training and opportunities for people with IDD in rural areas. Tech Launch has been a successful program for several cohorts in and around Cattaraugus County. In addition to the formal program, staff have offered program participants targeted support when they’ve been interested in applying for a particular job or starting their own business.

Impact (or impact-to-date) of the project/activity for people with ID/DD and their families
The impact of the Tech Launch program has been huge for the people participating. The DDPC has received several testimonials and success stories from individuals who have participated in the program, and who have gained skills and direction that they felt they didn’t have prior to attending. Participants have gone on to find both in-person and remote work in technology fields, including computer hardware repair, Etsy sales of 3-D printed costume components, and even as staff at the tech center. Participants in the program also have access to the center staff’s expertise and mentoring through the skills development and job application process. A development that came out of the grant was that Boundless Connections staff created a web-based database where participants track their technology skills learning, get those skills verified by staff, and can send these records with their job application so that prospective employers can easily see the applicant has the skills to meet the needs of the position.


Story perspective
Person with ID/DD

What were things like BEFORE you/your family/partner/community participated in the project/activity?
Prior to participating in the Tech Launch program, one participant did not feel he had much direction, and didn’t have any ideas what he wanted to do. He did not have a job, and spent a lot of time aimless and without anything meaningful to fill his time. In addition, he was quite shy and reserved, and did not have much confidence.

What are things like AFTER you/family/partner/community participated in the project/activity?
Throughout his time in the program, this particular participant showed extensive personal and professional growth. Not only did he come out of his shell and gain confidence, he learned various technologies and programs so well that he became an integral staff member at the tech center. Boundless Connections staff ended up hiring this participant after he completed the program, and he still works at the center! He has shared his own growth and gained confidence with DDPC staff on multiple site visits, and is a true success story of the program.

What was most beneficial to you/family/partner/community from participating in this project or practice?
The participant has become a part of the management team at the tech center, which has given him a new direction in his life. He has also become a Virtues Curriculum facilitator, so he went from learning and participating in soft skills training to teaching the skills. He also works with current participants on meeting their goals throughout their time in the program. He has become an example for current participants of success in application of the skills learned throughout the program.

The role of the DD Council in achieving positive outcomes through this project.
The NYS DDPC did targeted outreach in our rural communities throughout the State. At the time, we were focused on getting input from members of rural communities with IDD, with whom we did not have a previous relationship or who were unfamiliar with the DDPC. During these outreach trips, we met staff at the Tech Center and developed the model that would eventually become a DDPC-funded project. This project has exceeded our expectations, and has since expanded to another Upstate location in Rochester, NY.

Name: Kimberly Berg
Phone: (518) 486-7505
Council location: New York
Council location:  New York