Explore Work Curriculum


About the Florida Explore Work Curriculum

Who created the curriculum?

Project staff from the EmployMe1st project created this curriculum. We partnered with self-advocates from Florida to make sure that it was understandable and accessible to all people with disabilities in Florida.

Why was the curriculum created?

This curriculum was created to help self-advocates in Florida get more information about employment. The curriculum will also help people become more aware of what it is like to work in the community.

What will people learn about if they use the curriculum?

Some things Explore Work can help people understand are:

  • how having a job can make your life better,
  • how to think about the kind of job you may want,
  • who can help you get a job,
  • how to speak up for yourself,
  • how to talk about your disability,
  • how to plan for transportation, and
  • stories of people who are successful at work.

Who can I contact to get more information about the Explore Work curriculum?




How to use this curriculum

Welcome! If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone with a disability who’s interested in finding work in your community. That’s great!

You can read through this curriculum on your own, or get someone like a parent, a friend, or a support person to help you. There are lots of activities that can help you think about what jobs might be right for you.

To get started you need to decide if you want to do it online or print out the lessons.

There are two choices.

You can read each lesson on the webpage and use a blank piece of paper to write down your answers.


You can print each lesson. You need to look at the bottom of the page. Click the “printer-friendly button” and then you can print a black and white page. You may want to ask for help.

Don’t forget to go back and watch the videos if you print the pages!

You can also use this curriculum in a group. We offer classes where someone with a disability teaches a group of people how to use this curriculum. This is a fun way to do the activities and get to know other people. If you’re interested in doing this curriculum with a group, email ashley.wolfe@umb.edu or allison.hall@umb.edu.


The goal of this series is to spread information about working in the community. First, we will do some activities to get you thinking about working in the community. Next, we will get you ready to share this information with other people with disabilities.

The topics we are going to cover in this section are:

  • Reasons why people work
  • Myths about people with disabilities and work
  • How people decide what type of job they want
  • How to advocate for yourself when you are trying to find a job. This includes disclosure, asking for accommodations, and figuring out transportation.

But first, let’s do something fun!

Superhero? Firefighter? Ballet dancer? Astronaut? Scientist?

Write your answer here:



Lesson 1. Why people work

Let’s answer a question: Why do people work? That’s an easy one. People work to make money. They need money for food, for rent, and to have fun with their friends and family. 

But money isn’t the only reason to work. Working can also give you more independence and more control over your own life. When you work, you are learning new things, getting more skills, and making friends with people you meet through your job.

Another reason why people work is to contribute to society. This means that jobs exist not only for your benefit, but jobs also let you help others. For example, let’s say I have a job in an office delivering the mail. I’m helping the whole office save time and get stuff done.


Myths about people with disabilities and work

Some people may tell you that people with disabilities cannot work. This is not true! But, here are some common things you may hear. These are called “myths.” A myth is an untrue story or idea that gets repeated so much that many people think it is true.


Myth#1:  If you work in the community, you will lose your benefits.

Two type of benefits that people with disabilities may receive are Supplemental Security Income (called SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (called SSDI). Both programs have rules that let you try working without worrying about losing your benefit payments. There are a lot of resources to help you figure out what benefits you may still need once you are working. It is important that you talk to someone that can get to know you and your individual situation.

Here is a list of some resources.

What You Need to Know About Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) When You Turn 18 [PDF]

Work Incentives - General Information

Disability Benefits 101


Myth#2: You will never see your friends at the workshop again.

Yes, you may miss your friends that are still in the workshop. You will not be working alongside them anymore. But you can visit with them at their home or yours after work or on the weekends.

Also, remember that you can make friends at your new job. You can invite your co-workers to go out after work to eat and to spend time at a restaurant, a movie theater, a coffee shop, or another place. These outings can help you get to know your co-workers as friends.

Meeting new people and making new friends isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s an important part of life that helps you grow as a person. And remember, meeting new people can lead to new opportunities and experiences. 


Myth #3: No one will hire you.

Both people with and without disabilities may fear that they won’t get hired for a job. And it’s true that you may have to look in many places before you find a job that’s right for you. But many people with disabilities have jobs they love, and jobs they are very good at, just like anyone else.

Later on, we will talk about what skills you can bring to a job. You’ll learn about figuring out what strengths you have, and how they can relate to a potential job. This, combined with a positive attitude and a belief in yourself, are all things that can help you get hired.


Myth #4:  You can’t get to work because nobody will drive you.

This is a common concern for people with disabilities. How will you get to work? As you will see throughout this curriculum, there may be many ways for people with disabilities to get to and from work. We’ll talk a lot more about this later.


Myth #5:  You are not ready to work.

A lot of people may think this before they get their first job. Getting your first job can be scary. But it’s important to believe that you can work. This curriculum will help you to list all the reasons you can work, and the steps you can take to help yourself find your first job.    

Sponsored by United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.

The EmployMe1st project is a joint project of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the  Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services.

Lesson 2. How to decide what kind of job you want

Think about your skills and interests. If a teacher or a friend asked you what kind of job you wanted, would you be able to come up with an answer?

Here are some questions to get you thinking about the type of job you want and what things you are good at. If someone is helping you find a job, you can share these questions with him or her. This person might be a teacher, a service coordinator, a parent or another family member, a neighbor, or a job coach.

If you are talking with your friends about what kinds of jobs you would all like, you can share these questions with them, too.


What am I interested in?

  • What are/were my favorite classes in school?
  • What do I like to do in my free time?
  • What are the things I am good at? These are also called “skills.”

Is any of this related to what you wanted to do for work as a kid?! Maybe!


Learning about work

Let’s think about people you know. What jobs do they have?

  1. Your father 
  2. Your mother
  3. Older sister or brother 
  4. Your favorite television or book character


Linking your skills to potential jobs

Look back at your list of the things you are good at: your skills. These skills can help you decide what a good job might be. For instance, if you are very organized, you might want to work in a library or an office. If you are friendly, you might want to work at the check-in desk at a gym. If you know a lot about music, maybe you could work in a music store.


What are some jobs where you might use your skills?

  1. _________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________



Learning about different jobs

What are three things I could do to learn about jobs I might like? For example: Ask questions about how to apply to a job in store that I like to shop at; Ask for an informal “meet and greet” chat with a person who has a job like one of the ones you listed above.

            1st thing I could do: ________________________________

             I will do this by (date) ______________________________

            2nd thing I could do: _______________________________

            I will do this by (date) ______________________________

            3rd thing I could do:  _______________________________

            I will do this by (date) ______________________________

OK. You’ve decided on a few jobs that you might like. Now let’s think about one job that you would like to do the most. This job is at the top of your list.  What do you not know about the job, but need to know? For example, if you wanted to be a librarian, you would need to know: What are a librarian’s tasks? What happens on a typical day working in a library? Will you work long hours? Will you be on your feet all day? What will you need to do on a computer?


Write down three things you need to know about this job before you decide whether it is the right one for you.

  1. _________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________


For each of those questions, think about one step you can take to find out the answer. For example, can you:

  • Ask someone about the job.
  • Read an article or book about the job.
  • Go on an informational interview. An “informational interview” means that you go and ask questions to someone about what it’s like to work where s/he works.  For instance, if you wanted to work at a museum, you can ask someone who already works at a museum if you can plan a time to sit down and talk with this person and ask questions about his/her job.
  • Take a class or training.
  • What other ideas do you have?


Which one will you do?  ______________________________________

By what date will you do it? ______________________________________

Sponsored by United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.

The EmployMe1st project is a joint project of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the  Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services.

Lesson 3. Getting employment help from state agencies

Every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency, or “VR agency,” that helps people with disabilities to find, keep, and succeed at a job. Many people with disabilities and their families have found these agencies helpful. Your state VR agency can give you flexible services to help you reach your employment goals. Find Florida’s state VR agency website here:  http://www.rehabworks.org/

You may also be eligible for services from your state agency that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That’s sometimes called the “state IDD agency.”  Florida’s IDD state agency is called Agency for Persons with Disabilities and you can access their website here: http://apd.myflorida.com/

You may also be eligible for services from your state agency that supports people with mental health and substance abuse disorders.  In Florida this agency is called the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Department of Children and Families. You can access their website here: http://www.myflfamilies.com/

Let’s talk more about VR and what it can do for you. Your VR agency can help you in many ways. For example:

  • VR has tools to help you learn more about your interests, your skills, and the supports you need.
  • They will also help you develop an Individualized Plan for Employment that outlines your goals and the services you will receive. In this plan, your Vocational Rehabilitation counselor (or “VR counselor”) will help you think about an employment goal. It is the VR counselor’s job to help you figure what type of job you want and support you to look for a job. You’ll also make a list of all the steps that will help you get there. The work we’ve done together in this curriculum will help you be prepared for that!
  • VR services may include:
  • Vocational counseling. This is when you and your counselors have a conversation about your strengths and what type of job may be best for you.
  • Job placement assistance. VR can help you to meet with potential employers and set up interviews.
  • College or vocational training. VR can pay for you to go to college or a trade school to prepare you for a job.
  • Job coaching or tutoring. VR can pay for someone to come to the job to help you learn it until you don't that type of help anymore.
  • Transportation. VR staff can help you figure out how you will get to and from work.  
  • Assistive and rehabilitation technology services. If you need a special piece of technology to help you with your job, VR may pay for all or part of it!

What if you met with your counselor with all the information that you gathered by doing this curriculum? Let’s review all the work we have done. You answered questions about:

  • What you are interested in
  • Your employment goals 
  • What accommodations you might need on the job.

All this information will help you and your counselor find the services you need to get the right job for you. So while you are waiting for a meeting date with your counselor, complete these exercises. The more you know about the job you want and what you need to do to get it, the better off you will be.




Another important thing that we need to pay attention to is transportation. Getting a job is great, but if you can’t get to the job, it’s a problem. Now if you have a driver’s license and a car, you’re set. But what if you don't? You have to do some planning.  

First we need to think of all the options that are available. For example:

Ask a family member for a ride. What if the job is near your home? Then a parent, a sibling, or a spouse may be able to drop you off and pick you up from work.

Public transportation. If you live near a bus stop or a train station, this may be an option. Here are some things to know.

  1. By law, all public transportation must be accessible. “Accessible” means that it can be used by all people, with or without a disability.  For more information about accessible transportation, please click here: https://www.transportation.gov/accessibility
  2. Buses and trains have schedules. If you use the Internet, you can get the schedule on a website, or you can get a printed schedule at the station. If you need help finding a schedule, ask a friend or a family member.
  3. You have to know how far the bus stop is from your work or home. This will help you plan what time to leave home to go to work, and what time to leave work at the end of the day.

Para-transit. If you have been on a bus or a train, you know it can be crowded, especially when a lot of people are travelling to and from work at the same time. In addition, if you use a wheelchair, it may be hard for you to fit into that small space that is reserved for wheelchairs. An option for you may be para-transit. Para-transit means buses and vans that are completely accessible. You can call them and ask for them to pick you up and drop you off.

There are many benefits to using para-transit.

  1. All buses are accessible and have drivers who are trained to help you on and off.
  2. Vans can pick you up from your house and take you to work and then take you home.
  3. Para-transit is usually a lot less crowded than public transportation.

Para-transit also has some issues you’ll need to plan around.

  1. It is not free, and sometimes it can cost twice as much as public transportation. You’ll need to plan for that in your monthly budget.
  2. You may have to ask for a ride at least three days in advance, so it helps to plan for transportation needs early.
  3. Sometimes para-transit can be late, so give yourself extra time to get to and from work.

Lastly, think about who is in your community that may be able to help you get back and forth to work.

  • Is there anyone in your office who lives near you and could offer you a ride? You could offer to help pay for gas.
  • Is there someone from your neighborhood who likes to drive and has some free time? It doesn’t matter how you know them, but it should be someone you trust and feel comfortable with. If you ask someone for a favor, think about how you can return the favor. 

Check out these transportation resources from Employment First Florida

Sponsored by United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.

The EmployMe1st project is a joint project of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the  Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services.

Lesson 4. Advocating for yourself

Self-advocacy is important when looking for a job. Self-advocacy means telling people what you need and being able to make sure they help you get it.

Let’s look at an example:

Joe works in an office, doing data entry. Joe uses a wheelchair that can’t fit under the desk, and it makes it hard to reach the keyboard. After talking to his supervisor, Joe gets a new desk that is tall enough to fit his wheelchair. Now he is able to do his job just like everyone else.


How did Joe get what he needed?


  1. Joe identified a problem he was having at work.
  2. He knew what accommodations, or changes, would be useful.
  3. He asked his supervisor to help him solve the problem.


What’s an accommodation?

By the way, what are accommodations? Accommodations are changes made to the job so that a person with a disability can have access to everything he or she needs to do the job well.

Once you have a job, you may have to ask your employer for the accommodations you would need so that you can do the job effectively. So it is up to you to advocate for yourself.

Let’s talk more about accommodations! Let’s get started with these questions:


Performing your work

  1. When you were in school, what did your teachers do to make learning easier for you? Maybe give you more time for tests? Read questions aloud to you? Partner you up with someone who could give you support? Explain ideas one-on-one after class?
  2.  Now, think about what strategies you use at home. Maybe these strategies help you to get your chores done, or help you to remember where you need to be at certain times.  List them below.
  3.  Do you use any types of technology that helps you in day to day tasks like doing errands or make appointments? (for example smart phone, ipad, online calendar on your computer).


Physical space

You also should think about the type of space you will be working in (what your office/work environment will be like).

For example, do you need:

  • A ramp to get into the building?
  • An elevator instead of stairs?
  • A place next to your desk for your guide dog?
  • A quiet room where you can go if you start to feel stressed out?

What other physical accommodations will help you succeed at work?


Changes to your schedule or workday

You can also ask for changes to your workday. These would be things like your work schedule, breaks, and time off. Think about these questions:

  1. How many hours can you work before getting tired?
  2. Do you work better in the mornings or afternoons?
  3. How many breaks do you need in a day?
  4. How often do you have appointments you might need to miss work for?


Now, think about accommodations you may need in each of the areas we’ve talked about:

  1. Performing your work:
    1.  _________________________________________________
    2.  _________________________________________________
    3.  _________________________________________________
    4.  _________________________________________________


  1. Physical space:
    1.  _________________________________________________
    2.  _________________________________________________
    3.  _________________________________________________
    4.  _________________________________________________


  1. Changes to your schedule or workday:
  1.  _________________________________________________
  2.  _________________________________________________
  3.  _________________________________________________
  4.  _________________________________________________


Disclosing your disability

When you “disclose” something, it means you tell people. So one decision you need to make is how, when, and if you will disclose your disability.

When you disclose, or tell someone you have a disability, you must know how much to tell them about yourself. When discussing accommodations, you must decide what and how much of this sensitive information you need to share.

When you let someone know you have a disability, it allows you to get accommodations. As we were talking about, accommodations are changes your employer can make to help you do your job better. The Americans with Disabilities Act says that it’s illegal for an employer not to give you what you need to do your job well.

See these resources:

The Americans with Disabilities Act Questions and Answers

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act

JAN: For Individuals


How do you request an accommodation from your employer?


It is important to know how to ask for an accommodation. Here are some tips:

  • Be polite, and give examples. “These are some accommodations that help me in school, and I think that they can help me on this job. Could we talk about them?”
  • Have a conversation.  Be open to feedback and suggestions. “I looked at the requirements for the job and these are the accommodations I may need.  What are some of your ideas?”

Sponsored by United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.

The EmployMe1st project is a joint project of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the  Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services.