Disability Employment Initiative Serving Youth

The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (Commerce) announces the release of the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) Application for Local Innovation Projects.

The goal of this program is to expand employment career pathway opportunities, for youth with disabilities.

For this round of DEI, the geographic pilot areas are Local Workforce Innovation Areas 6 (DuPage County), and North and Northwest Suburban Cook County.  Only projects serving individuals in these geographies will be funded.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are depleted.

The first round of funding decisions will be made in November/December 2015, for proposed start dates prior to July 1, 2016.


Through the DEI, the Illinois vision is to improve participation and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities who are 14-24 years of age through the development of a job-driven, full inclusion career pathway model. Existing career pathways will be enhanced to include comprehensive supports, services and work-based learning opportunities through partnerships for individuals with disabilities. Illinois will accomplish this through two goals:

  • By increasing the participation of in-school and out-of-school youth in career pathways programs through participating community-based organizations, high schools, community colleges, and local public workforce systems.

  • By increasing the number of in-school and out-if-school youth with disabilities (ages 14-24) attaining academic and technical skills, high school diplomas, career–related certificates/credentials/degrees and/or entering further postsecondary education and/or industry related employment with earnings comparable to all participants in career pathway programs.


​Illinois and the local partners in Local Workforce Area 6 including College of DuPage, Downer’s Grove District #99, and Local Workforce Area 7 including Harper College, and District #214, working with their representatives from the Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services will implement the following DEI components as ways to increase education and employment outcomes of individuals with disabilities.

  1. Expanded Interagency Partnerships

  2. Guideposts for Success

  3. Integrated Resource Teams

  4. Workforce Development Strategies

These strategies are not mutually exclusive and complement each other in the context of Illinois’ overall implementation approach to providing individuals with disabilities with employment opportunities.

Applicants should include how their proposal addresses one or all of these core components. The components are described in further detail in the Request for Application.


​The funding amounts for proposals will be commensurate with the project anticipated outcomes and deliverables which will focus on services to individuals with disabilities. A typical grant will range from $50,000 – $100,000. Matching funds are not required; however, blending and braiding of funds is encouraged, and projects leveraging multiple funding sources will be given priority consideration. Grantees will be required to report leveraged resources from partners over the life of the project, including WIOA formula funds and other federal, state, local, and private resources.


​Commerce will accept proposals from social service agencies, private-sector for profit and non-profit employers, educational institutions, and private sector for profit and non-profit training providers or other entities, such as sector employer associations with the ability to engage employers to facilitate training placements


  • DEI Local Projects Applications (MS Word)
  • DEI Round 5 Local Projects RFA (PDF)