A Special Announcement from Wise

We are in the midst of a changing of the guard in our Spokane office. Senior Program Manager, Cathy Sacco will retire this month and we are celebrating and recognizing her accomplishments.

Cathy has been a mentor, leader and pioneer in the field of employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for nearly 30 years. She has ensured, for nearly two decades, that Spokane and the eastern side of WA state had access to quality training and technical assistance as a member of the Wise team.

In her years with Wise, Cathy has assisted in implementing large employer hiring initiatives, worked on a pilot project which connected youth with the employer community through mentoring, developed a self-determination/personal agent pilot project to give individuals a greater voice in directing their employment dollars, expanded our TA and training into other WA State counties and into other states wishing to elevate their integrated community employment outcomes for people with significant disabilities, and assisted individuals, families and services providers with information about how to experience greater economic self-sufficiency, while assuring access to necessary benefits.

Thank you for the wonderful work and support over the years Cathy. Enjoy the next chapter!

The following is a letter from Cathy…
First, we are excited to share that we have two new staff members; Charly Walters and Stephen Eyman! They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]

Secondly, I am writing to let you know that Monday, July 31st, will be my last day with Wise.

The last 16 + years spent with Wise, Wise staff and all of you have been incredible. I am so grateful for the relationships I have formed in that time and working with all of you. For a few of you, our relationship has been 27 + years. As you can imagine, letting go is bitter sweet. I have held my work close and its importance in my life will continue as I navigate new roads.

I will be retiring from Wise but will remain a Wise Associate. I will still be living in Spokane, so I truly hope our paths will cross again in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, please feel free to stay in touch with me via my new email address: [email protected]

Rest assured, you are still connected to Wise and will receive information, conference dates and training opportunities regularly from the Wise Team.

Thanks again for the work that you do, for partnering with me and Wise and for your promotion of employment over the years!

All the best,


TLC’s Community Access Team – A Study of Success

TLC’s Community Access Staff – Doing it Right!










While some agencies throughout the State of Washington, providing services to people experiencing developmental and intellectual disabilities may struggle in assisting individuals to identify and accomplish their goals, others have figured out a path to success.  Total Living Concepts (TLC) is one such agency!
Total Living Concept (TLC)’s Community Access team has been finding spectacular success assisting people to identify and achieve their goals.   Not only are the people they serve becoming active in the community in ways they never thought possible, they are forging real friendships and contributing significantly to their community.  Some have even become employed without even looking for a job.  TLC’s CA Program Manager Josie Sparks brims with excitement when she shares stories about her team’s ability to create amazing movement in the lives of the people they serve.  Together they have created a truly dynamic and effective team and service.

How do they do this?  Do they have advice for others who are struggling?

Sparks, a competitive paddler hailing from Hawaii, brings a big spirit to this work.  Her eyes sparkle.  Her spiky black hair vibrates.  Her face is continuously lit up like a festival.   Her belief in the ability of all people to transform their lives by setting truly transformational goals is enormous and her team not only shares this belief but lives and breathes it.  This is Sparks’ life work and great talent.  Her background as a personal trainer and the stories of transformation she shares are truly awe inspiring.  She and her team attribute their success to the following:

  • Believe in people’s abilities to achieve success beyond what anyone has yet imagined.
  • Support from agency leadership is TLC is grounded in person-centeredness, with dignity and respect at the heart of its mission and being.  Their mission statement gives them not only a direction but a way of being.  Leadership ensures those who work in the agency strive to live their mission day in and day out.  Click here to read their Mission Statement.
  • At every moment they allow the people they support to become independent and capable in every action possible. Their team doesn’t provide lip service alone to their goal of working themselves out of a job.  They are motivated to make themselves not necessary. For example they do not open doors for people who are capable of doing so, or they help people who don’t seem currently capable to figure out how to open doors in their own way.  They put themselves in check whenever they feel the urge to step in and assist/caretake.  They assess, recognize and step back every time they see themselves stepping in and not allowing a person to do things.  They realize that stepping in actually perpetuates disability and stunts growth.
  • They constantly push themselves and others to raise the bar and reach for what might seem ‘unobtainable at the moment.’ They do not settle for mediocre goals.  Through dedication, patience and allowing people to self-direct, change their minds, try and fail, but never give up, they support people to not only believe in themselves but develop their own vision and achieve substantially better lives.  This is the core of who they are and why they help people succeed.
  • They hire people from all walks of life who want to assist in the great work of personal transformation. They look for staff who can bring their own unique richness to the team.
  • They are fascinated by people and their stories. They are fueled by learning as a lifelong activity and this process is what makes life not only meaningful but fun, exciting and beautiful.
  • Their belief in the abilities of people are rock solid. They KNOW that people are incredibly capable and recognize the important role of support and encouragement.
  • Josie as a manager has open communication and gives tireless support but never stops challenging her team. She gets them what they need and gets out of their way.  She never lets the bar of high expectations drop.  She clears the way for staff to experiment within boundaries and is both flexible and nurturing.  Josie creates a sense of family, is achievement-focused, person-focused, endlessly supportive and helps them celebrate every achievement no matter how small.  She has their backs.  She makes it safe to go out on a limb and support actual dreams and help people make them real.
  • They do not give up and they just do not stop. Because of this dedication, TLC has made a real mark and helped others to set expectations high for all community members. They believe the sky is the limit for those they support so they shoot for the stars every time.

Bravo TLC!

Welcome to our new website!

I’m excited to announce the new Wise brand, website, and social media experience. Last summer the Wise board and staff began discussion on how best to recognize the 30-year anniversary of supported employment training and technical assistance in the Pacific Northwest. A decision was made to rebrand the organization to more clearly represent the work of the organization, recognize the vast array of partnerships necessary to build competitive employment capacity and share the range of employment expertise available out West. In many ways, 30 years seems like a very long time. Yet, in the movement of supported employment, there is still a sense of a pioneering feeling that all stakeholders engage in every day. With this new site as a resource and a dynamic social media strategy beginning, we hope that this fresh approach will catapult employment possibilities from a pioneering era into a more typical part of our everyday lives.

In the new brand, you will see our version of an abstract handshake. Our approach to training and technical assistance is rooted in partnerships and leverages and facilitates connections. We believe this symbol to be a great reminder of the culture that we strive to create with our partners to realize full employment for people with the most significant disabilities. 

A few key features to note in the new site. You will see a diverse ‘Team’ section. We have information on all the Wise staff and board of directors. We have a developing section of Wise Associates (subject matter experts) who reside in the Pacific Northwest. We will build out information on our college work study team and we have a dynamic training calendar to ensure you know of our training and supporting trainings happening in your area. 

We look forward to continuing to build a resource rich website with online training offerings, project descriptions, recommended resources and more! We are open to your feedback, welcome information on trainings that you’d like to see promoted on our calendar, and are open to new resources to feature in our resource section.

In closing, I’d like to recognize the entire Wise team for their great work on the new site. Special recognition to the website project team members- Project lead, Jaimie Laitinen and team members: Robyn Hoffman, Rob VanOss, Cathy Sacco, Morgan Cain, and Ryan Farrow.


Final Report and Recommendations of the Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID)

An Open Letter to All,

October is Disability Employment Month. We celebrate the employment successes of people with disabilities, have respect for people’s contributions, and at the same time know we must expand and improve employment outcomes in communities across the country.

We know that disability and poverty are stubbornly intertwined. We know that we can do better to create and support decent jobs for people with disabilities. When asked, jobs are always one of the top three goals of most people with disabilities. We know that we have amazing examples of successes in companies large and small.

What we need is a sustained national strategy that engages all of us.

One part of a nationwide approach to employment of people with disabilities is the Final Report and Recommendations of the Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID). This Committee, created by the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, completed its work and delivered its Final Report (see link below) to The Honorable Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, and to Congress, on September 15, 2016. This report emphasizes the need to Build Capacity to deliver meaningful employment in communities nationwide. I was honored to be appointed to this committee and to serve as committee chair.  This amazing committee of 18 citizen members, and seven federal official members from five departments of the federal government, represented a broad spectrum of perspectives, knowledge and expertise. All shared a commitment to engage the process and develop far reaching recommendations for implementation nationwide, and within states. The work of this committee played out in full public view, and was informed by a broad range of public input, as well as individual stories and expert input.

I have argued that we have many of the tools we need to assist people with disabilities to acquire and keep jobs of their choosing. We need a broad implementation approach to using these tools in communities, large and small, across the nation.

And, back to the intertwined nature of poverty and disability. In community action programs, and local efforts to address issues of poverty, there is a rich discussion about the human need for Resources, Relationships and Meaning in life, for all of us. Competitive Integrated Employment for people with disabilities can bring a measure of all three. It’s National Disability Employment Month, let’s make it a Decade.

Let’s do this. People are waiting.



David Michael Mank, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Indiana Institute on Disability and Community
Indiana University
1905 N. Range Road, Bloomington, IN 47408

 812 325 3773
[email protected]

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