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Question: What do you call an employee with a disability?

Answer: An employee!

LEAP, Leaders Employing All People, is a one-hour training and education resource program for employers in Champaign County. It was created by Developmental Services Center and Community Choices and is totally grant funded by the Champaign County Developmental Disabilities Board. So, it’s free for any business to get certified.

And guess what? “We will come to you,” Stephanie Davenport, LEAP Coordinator, said from DSC last month. She was joined by Janice McAteer, DSC Director of Development. “We’re about people. This has to do with everyone in your business doing well. We’re meeting people where they are at by offering support and structure,” McAteer said.

There are approximately 16,180 disabled people in Champaign County, and many are capable of full participation in an integrated employment. An individual with a disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.*

The goal is for people who want to work to get jobs. The optimal outcome is a good job-match where both the employee and the business are set-up for success[DS1] . LEAP is a training and education resource. They present educational material to employers on topics like disability awareness, how to utilize a job coach and the information employers can use to enhance their business.

“Then, if an employer expresses interest, we will refer to a job coach at an agency like DSC, Community Choices, and others in the county. The coaches at our agencies-DSC and CC both-have a goal to fill the needs of the employee and the business and make the best possible match for the employer and employee for long-term retention,” Davenport said.

And whether the employee has a developmental disability or a learning disability, there are businesses that can and do benefit from employees with a disability.

“Let’s say there is a successful employee who has mastered his job and he is ready to take on more. Then a job coach can come and assess the transition, put strategies in place and make sure that a successful transition happens. A job coach can step back in when needed, at no charge to the employer at all,” McAteer said.

As the employee progresses, Champaign County agencies are there with employer education and support, initial[DS1]  evaluation, planning for job advancement, training, follow-up and transition planning. They provide reproducible materials to use for future training or just for reference, should the need arise, which include practical and hands-on tips from experts and business leaders in Champaign County, too.  There are employer benefits, as well: increased profits, staying power, desire to succeed, reliability, increased productivity, improvement and growth and inclusivity. Further, think of the benefits for the employees which are opportunities to grow and advance, self-sufficiency, professional development and independence.

To get more information on LEAP, go to:, or contact Davenport at 217-356-9176 or at “For both the business and the employee, this is just the right thing to do,” McAteer said.

*US Department of Justice; civil rights division-disability rights section

Central Illinois Business magazine will feature LEAP Certified businesses in Champaign County in future issues.

“LEAP Certified Champaign County Employers”

Best Buy               

Big Grove Tavern                

CES Electric               

Champaign Park District               

Champaign Unit #4 Schools               

Clark Lindsey Village               


County Market on Kirby               


Farm Credit IL               

First Federal               

For the Love of Hair               

Holiday Inn Express Rantoul               

Home Depot               

JPE, Inc               

Jupiter's at the Crossing                

Loving Paws               

Mahomet Chamber of Commerce               

Mahomet Seymour Schools/Atlas               

Miga Restaurant               

Old Navy               

Parkland College               

Pepsi Bottling Co                

Peter Pan Too               

Planet Fitness Champaign*               

Planet Fitness Urbana               


Rockwell Automation               

Schnucks Champaign               

Schnucks Savoy               

SEE You CD & Vinyl               

Stephens Family YMCA               

Strawberry Fields               

Ten Thousand Villages               

The Vineyard Church               

Todd Jacobs, State Farm Agent               

Urbana Park District               

Urbana, City of                

Village of Rantoul               


Walgreens Mahomet               

Walgreens on Green St.               

Walgreens on Philo Rd               

Walgreens University Ave*               

CU-Habitat Restore               

Champaign County Forest Preserve District

 [DS1]LEAP doesn’t do this. Agencies do this…LEAP is only the training that explains what the agencies in the county offer

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