TransCen, Inc., the parent organization of our Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving educational and employment success and community participation for people with disabilities.
Richard G. Luecking, Ed.D. has been the President of TransCen since 1987. Dr. Luecking has designed and directed a wide variety of research and demonstration projects, and is the author of numerous publications on employment of people with disabilities, business partnerships, school-to-work transition, and career development. He has been active in many local, state, national, and international initiatives, including a Fulbright exchange program with the State University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, as well as exchanges with Down Syndrome Australia, Disability Employment Australia, New Zealand Disability Support Network, Ireland National Disability Authority and other groups.
Interview with Dr. Luecking
How did you get into the disability field, what factors influenced you to focus on youth and transition to employment?
Like many professionals in this field, I have family members who experience disability.
TransCen is the name the founding Board of Directors selected to reflect the intention for the organization to be a transition center. Their vision was to have an organization that would convene various stakeholders to improve post-school employment success of youth with disabilities as they transition from school to adult life. I was fortunate to be hired to help shape this vision. Over the years we came to understand the additional need to insure opportunities for community participation by all people with disabilities. This led to our interest in operating the ADA Information Center.
You’ve traveled to many countries around the world, consulting and collaborating on the development of disability programs and promoting employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Are there unique challenges or barriers to integration in different countries?
Most countries have laws and policies that support employment access for individuals with disabilities. Some provide incentives to employers to hire people with disabilities. Some have mandated that both private and public employers meet specific hiring quotas. Some have anti-discrimination laws, others have strong regulations requiring not just non-discrimination but also affirmative efforts to boost the presence of people with disabilities in the workplace. Some have evolving policy structures and funding mechanisms to promote and support the growth and quality of employment access so that all people, including those with the most significant disabilities, have greater employment access. Others are only just beginning to go down that path. All admit to having a long way to go before full employment of people with disabilities is the norm.
The United States is often considered a leader in the field of disability rights, but what could we learn from other countries?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is of course landmark legislation that protects the civil rights of people with disabilities in this country. However, the ADA alone does not insure that everyone who wants to work achieves that goal. Some countries have taken additional steps by identifying affirmative targets for companies related to hiring individuals with disabilities. While these efforts are not perfect, it is worth watching the experience of these countries to learn if and how lessons elsewhere can inform our efforts in the U.S. to improve successful access to employment.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in the global disability rights movement?
Keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas! There is much to be gained from ongoing international exchange among advocates, practitioners, and researchers who are involved in activities that will show how, when and under what circumstances people with disabilities experience successful employment. Consider the context of other countries’ history, culture, language, and governments. They offer diverse ideas, viewpoints, practices, and legislative activities that offer useful insights across international boundaries.
Finally (just for fun), what’s the most interesting thing you ever ate while traveling abroad?
Tough question because there have been so many! But I have to say that few experiences have been more interesting than an authentic Brazilian barbeque. Bom!
Read more about TransCen’s global work.