Collaborating to Support Project Search for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Description of the Practice

Project Search is an internship employment model for job seekers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) whose goal is competitive integrated employment. Project Search participants learn workplace skills and tasks in a combination of classroom and workplace settings at a community employment site.

Project Search is usually targeted at young adults finishing high school. Over the last decade, Florida has established up to 40 sites for transition-age youth. With the success of these sites, stakeholders in Florida began studying the possibility of creating Project Search programs for adults with IDD receiving Adult Day Training (ADT) services. The intent is that after participating in Project Search, adults with IDD will have the necessary experiences to make an informed choice about obtaining a job in their community.

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Recording  Available: A Self Advocate Perspective: Strengthening the System of Support

If you missed the presentation on April 12, 2022, you are in luck! A recording of the event is now available! In April’s event, Natalie Jean from ADP and Sheila Gritz-Swift from the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council discussed the Florida Developmental Disabilities Network Leadership Development Program and the creation of a scorecard that allows people with disabilities to determine whether they are receiving high quality employment services. Stay tuned for a bonus recording with Arizona Jenkins III, coming to you soon!

Click here to watch the event recording

Are you a person with a disability would like to work? Check out these resources!

Meet our speakers for the April 12 event!

Sheila Gritz-Swift

Sheila serves as the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council’s Senior Director, Programs and Contracts, where she provides oversight and support for development, implementation, and evaluation of the Council’s Five-Year State Plan.  Mrs. Gritz-Swift’s background includes 25 years working in the field of Exceptional Student Education as a practitioner, state-wide trainer, and Program Specialist for the Florida Department of Education, as well as 10 years with the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council.  Her primary content expertise and contributions to the field are in the areas of employment, secondary transition, and self-determination and self-advocacy.

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TAP Equals Talent: Agency Partnership Introduces Employers and Job Seekers Through the Talent Acquisition Portal

Description of the Practice

Florida’s Division of Blind Services (DBS) and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) use multiple resources to meet their employment placement goals. One resource that each agency uses is the Talent Acquisition Portal (TAP). Nationally, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) oversees TAP. CSAVR includes 80 agencies, staffed by about 25,000 people, serving approximately 1 million customers with disabilities each year.

TAP is an online platform where employers can identify job candidates with disabilities. The purpose of TAP is to address the wide disparity in employment rates for people with and without disabilities. TAP supports employers who want to increase the diversity of their workforce, including individuals with disabilities.

Continue reading “TAP Equals Talent: Agency Partnership Introduces Employers and Job Seekers Through the Talent Acquisition Portal”

Join us on April 12, 2022 for: A Self Advocate Perspective: Strengthening the System of Support

Join us on April 12, 2022 to hear from self-advocates in Florida as they discuss their membership in the Florida Developmental Disabilities Network Leadership Development Program. Attendees will learn about work being done to identify barriers and solutions to improve quality employment services for Floridians with developmental disabilities. During the event, our speakers, Arizona Jenkins II and Natalie Jean will describe their work on the Florida DD Network Collaborative Leadership Program, a program designed to develop a diverse cadre of current and emerging leaders with and without disabilities. The cadre worked collaboratively to identify barriers and solutions to improve quality employment services for Floridians with developmental disabilities. The discussion will include a recommendation to create a scorecard that allows people with disabilities to determine whether they are receiving high quality employment services.

Date: April 12, 2022 from 3-4 PM
Location: Zoom meeting room
Register now

After you register, you will receive an email confirmation that includes connect information.

Need more information or assistance?  Contact Nancy Nickolaus at

Webinar recording: College Matters Florida

If you missed the College Matters Florida presentation on February 8, 2022, you’re in luck! We have a recording. Jaimie Timmons and Sheila Johnson presented on the new College Matters public awareness campaign. We had some great questions from our audience, and it was exciting to see so many people interested in supporting inclusive education programs for young adults with ID.

Webinar slides

Guest presenter slides

Here’s a bit of follow up information.

If you would like to help promote the message College Matters, please complete this form or contact Jaimie Timmons ( directly.

College Matters Florida staff are eager to get students involved. Please pass along our contact information or share the survey link:

Here are a few resources they shared during the presentation.

College Matters Campaign news article

University of Central Florida College Matters resources
Think College Search engine : A database of 312+ colleges and universities offering inclusive college programs for students with intellectual disability.

Join us Feb. 8, 2022: College Matters Florida

Learn more about college for students with IDD

College Matters. It is the name of the project but also a statement. College for students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) matters, a lot!

On February 8, we welcome Jaimie Timmons, coordinator of the College Matters Florida (CMF) project. Jaimie will explain the CMF project, it’s evolution and share key resources available to you, including a 5-part series of videos about inclusive secondary and postsecondary education.

CMF kicked off a multi-media educational awareness campaign in January 2022.  Jaimie, along with colleague, Sheila Johnson, will describe the campaign and explain how each one of use can help spread the message that college is a viable and transformative experience for transitioning youth and young adults with IDD in Florida.

Register today!

If you have questions, you may contact Nancy Nickolaus at

Online event recording available: Benefits Planning & Work Incentives

October 26, 2021: Benefits Planning & Work Incentives: Busting Barriers to Employment Event

People with disabilities or their family members may be hesitant to work due to fears about losing health care and other benefits.  This month’s online event provided information about work incentives and resources that can help eliminate these concerns.

Focusing on the Social Security, Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program, our speaker Lesly Quintanilla Lopez highlighted a variety or rules and work incentives that can help people work, retain health care and increase financial security. She stressed the importance of being proactive and provided tools that can help. If you or someone you know is interested in working and receives SSI or SSDI contact the WIPA expert in your area.  Don’t know your local Community Work Incentive Coordinator?  You can find your local WIPA provider by zip code and other information in the the attached resources.

Click here to watch the event recording


Find a local WIPA provider by zip code. Choose the Benefits Counseling WIPA dropdown option: Http://

Ticket to Work Helpline: 1-866-968-7842

Visit the Social Security Administration and learn more about SSA Benefits and work supports:

To learn to take control of your finances and build financial independence at Check out money management tools like household budget worksheets and a financial savings calculator.

10.26 SSA beneficiaries, how a CWIC can help you [PDF]

10.26 Asset Building for Individuals with Disabilities [PDF]

Lesly Quintanilla Lopez: The Impact of Work on Benefits (October 2021)

The Impact of Work on Benefits: Worried about losing public benefits? Competitive employment IS an option! Benefits Planning & Work Incentives: Busting Barriers to Employment  

Tuesday, October 26, 2021, 3-4pm ET.

Guest speaker: Lesly Quintanilla Lopez is the executive director for The Keys Advocacy Center, Center for Independent Living where she is responsible for a multi-county, community-based project from SSA and for the Independent Living program covering the Florida Keys.  As an advocate for people with disabilities and the elderly for the last 14 years, her skills and areas of expertise include advocacy, disability issues, and health insurance specifically Medicare.

 Lesly enjoys serving and contributing to her community and she is currently involved with:

  • The Alliance for Aging, as part of the Board of Directors, and volunteering for the SHINE program as an Area Coordinator for Monroe County since 2009 and
  • The Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) educating Medicare beneficiaries in how to prevent fraud to Medicare since Feb 2014
  • Disability Independent Group (DIG) as a newsletter contributor since April 2014

The American Red Cross Greater Miami and the Keys Chapter as a Community Volunteer Leader.  In this volunteer role, she serves as an ambassador for the Red Cross in Monroe County.  She also sits on the Red Cross South Florida Disability Integration Team since May 2019.  This year, 2021, Lesly was named the Disaster Cycle Services Preparedness Volunteer of the Year!

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Lesly was awarded The Golden Choices Volunteer of the year recognition from the Department of Elders Affairs State of Florida some years back for her volunteer services to SHINE program from the Alliance for Aging.  Some of her hobbies and special interests include spending time with her family, reading and being involved in serving her community.   Lesly has been happily married for the last 28 years and lives in Homestead, which is a 45-minutes ride from the beautiful Florida Keys where she works.

Learn more about past and upcoming presentations.

project search logo

July 2021 archive: Project SEARCH: Looking to the Future

Recording from the July 20, 2021 presentation: Project SEARCH: Looking to the Future

Project SEARCH is a proven school to work transition program where youth experience a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job-skills training at a local business. Building a successful program takes commitment, teamwork and problem solving. One reason Project SEARCH works? Workplace immersion. What is this? And how does it help students? What should you do at the local level? Join us and learn more!


Patti Langford, ESE transition specialist, Nassau County School District