An article Wednesday incorrectly identified a member of the Montgomery County task force that recommended that a special agency be established to help disabled students. His name is John Yeh.
A Montgomery County task force recommended yesterday that the county establish a special agency to help disabled students make the transition from school to the work force.
The task force report, titled "Rights of Passage," is a result of 10 months of study by the group, which was established by School Superintendent Wilmer Cody and County Executive Charles Gilchrist.
John Yen, one of the task force members, had firsthand experience with the problems of disabled persons' search for work after finishing school.
Yen, 37, who is deaf, recalled in an interview that about 10 years ago, he sent hundreds of resumes to prospective business employers but got no response.
Yen had worked as a computer programmer at Gallaudet College, which he attended. In the resume, he said, he was careful to explain that he was deaf and would need an interpreter.
"I would call and ask them if they had received my resume," Yen said, speaking in sign language to an interpreter. "They were very polite but no one asked me for an interview."
Today, Yen is owner and president of a computer services company with offices in Rockville and Alexandria.
He was one of 28 members of the task force, which was made up of civic leaders, business people, teachers and parents.
The group proposed that school officials appoint a coordinator for all transition programs for handicapped students within the school system. That person would find jobs for disabled students in the 11th and 12th grade and create more in-school jobs for handicapped children, the report recommended.
Disabled students are entitled by law to attend public schools until they are 21. After that, they must scramble to find scarce spots in day programs for the disabled. Many wind up living with their parents, according to task force members.
Every year, about 800 disabled students, with mental or physical handicaps or both, graduate from Montgomery County public schools. Although officials do not know how many of them cannot find jobs, national studies show that between 50 percent and 80 percent of disabled adults are unemployed.
Yen said his experience as a handicapped person and as an employer of the handicapped -- of the 200 persons working for his company, about 20 percent are deaf -- has made him especially sensitive to the need to find jobs for the disabled.
Already, $100,000 in the county's current annual budget has been set aside for programs to help the disabled find jobs after they graduate, said Gail Nachman, chief of the county's division of services to handicapped individuals and a chairman of the task force. "It's appalling that for 21 years [handicapped students] have been where the services are and once they turn 21 the services end," said Nachman.
Tom O'Toole, a chairman of the task force and director of special education and related services for the county schools, said the system has done many of the things suggested by the task force. Five vocational teachers for the handicapped were hired this year at an annual cost of $150,000, he said. They will help train handicapped students and help them find jobs.
Cory Moore, a task force member who has a 21-year-old handicapped daughter, said she hopes her daughter will benefit from the task force's recommendations. Her daughter has not been able to find a job and is in a sheltered workshop for handicapped adults where she is learning office skills. "It's not where I want her to be," Moore said. "I can see her finding a job in the real world in an integrated setting."
Yen said he, too, believes that the task force's recommendations, if carried out, will help many disabled persons, including his children. One of them is deaf, another is partially deaf and a third has Down's syndrome.
For Yen, the task force's effort is one small step in achieving his dream, which he said is to "provide employment opportunities for many disabled persons in this county and to show the business community that disabled people can succeed, especially in the computer industry."