EBI and the Blues Broads Featured Today in Bay Area News Group

Bay Area News Group featured the Blues Broads today, with a spotlight on EBI’s 20th Anniversary. Tom Heinz was quoted in the article, saying:

“Blues and soul music is about having hope within a struggle….People with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities, haven’t always been very valued citizens. Our mission is  for people to take their rightful place in our society, and the Freight is an ideal venue for our first major event like this. It’s physically accessible and such an institution in Berkeley, which is the birthplace of the disability rights movement.”

To read the full article, CLICK HERE and don’t forget to buy your tickets for the event!

EBI’s 20th Anniversary Press Release – September 10, 2014

Blues Broads Bob Hoskins

The Blues Broads. Photo: Bob Hoskins














EBI recently sent out a press release publicizing EBI’s 20th Anniversary. To read about the event, as well as the great work that EBI does, read the full press release here.


To get more details about the event, view our sponsors or learn about becoming a sponsor yourself, click here.


CONGRATULATIONS to three East Bay Innovations (EBI) Supported Employment clients who were recently recognized by employers for their valuable skills and contributions to the workplace with permanent job offers. And congratulations to the ALAMEDA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE and LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY on their three new fantastic employees.

BRIANNA, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office

Brianna has spent the last nine months as a temporary employee at the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and was just offered a full-time, permanent position as a Legal Assistant. A few of her many tasks include preparing detailed trial sheets for criminal and civil court cases, answering phones, and handling interoffice mail. Brianna’s co-workers and employer are thrilled with her productivity, strong work ethic and positive attitude, and are excited to have her as a permanent part of the team.


Brianna, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office

SELESTE, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

As a Clerical Assistant for NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Seleste arranges travel for scientists, updates “Smartsheets”, orders supplies and assists with mailings. Seleste actually exited Project SEARCH early to accept this position.

Seleste, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

LEAH, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Leah received a permanent job offer in the Engineering Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory after a paid internship. As a Clerical Assistant, Leah scans and categorizes key engineering documents, is responsible for ordering supplies, and performs a variety of clerical tasks. Leah was the first EBI client to be hired as a permanent employee at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Congratulations Tom for winning the Bernie Graf Excellence in Service Award!

Congratulations to our Executive Director, Tom Heinz, for receiving the Bernie Graf Excellence in Service Award!

“This award honors individuals and service providers who have demonstrated programs of exceptional quality for persons with developmental disabilities in Alameda County.  As service providers they carry on in the tradition of Bernie Graf who exemplified the spirit of excellence and dedicated service to improve the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities.”

Than you, Tom for all of the hard work you do for our clients, agency, and for the wonderful example you set for our community!

Project SEARCH Gives Nine Graduates a Means to Employment

By Mike Ramirez, Oakland Tribune Correspondent
Posted: 01/31/2013 05:30:04 PM PST
Updated: 01/31/2013 08:05:16 PM PST


OAKLAND — Project SEARCH of Alameda County, a program that gives internship experience to adults with developmental disabilities, honored nine members of its third graduating class at the Board of Supervisors chambers Thursday.

Project SEARCH is a yearlong internship that provides full workplace immersion with a combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and on-the-job training. A joint venture among East Bay Innovations, the Oakland Unified School District, and Alameda County, the program’s goal is to expose interns to careers, build resumes and to attain employment using skills they have acquired.

“I loved getting to meet new people and learn new skills, like how to work in an office and how to communicate better,” said Marcos Dimas, 22, of Richmond, a member of the graduating class. “I was a person that would always doubt myself, but with the motivation of my coaches, the program has made me more confident.”

Dimas has secured a job with the Auditor-Controller/Clerk-Recorder’s office and was one of two members of the current class who have found employment.

The other graduates are Christina Apel, Scott Beaton, Julian Dupuis, Allen Huang, Samara Metz, Michael Morales, Martha Ortiz, and Gloriana Sorensen.

Interns participate in the program from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Every day begins with an hour of class, then work, and finally a short debriefing session

where feedback is given. To receive a range of experience, interns complete assignments with three different county departments during their yearlong stint.

“Upon graduation, interns are prepared for employment by being given experience,” said Tom Heinz, founder of East Bay Innovations. “After the program, interns are being hired, working for the county or in health care.

“While our interns are mostly landing clerical positions after finishing the program, jobs of this caliber are pretty rare for individuals with developmental disabilities and autism.”

Heinz said 85 percent of people with intellectual disabilities and autism are unemployed nationally and of those 15 percent with jobs, only half make over the national minimum wage.

The Alameda County program began in 2009 and is the first public sector Project SEARCH in California. Project SEARCH began in 1996 at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and has since become modeled on the international level.

Brendon Woods, the Alameda County Public Defender, worked with an intern on a daily basis and hired her permanently after she graduated from the program.

“This is an amazing program, run by amazing people for amazing people,” Woods said.

Joel Sidney, 31, of Piedmont, a Project SEARCH graduate and UC Berkeley alumni, performed with his guitar before the ceremony. He is also the first individual with a developmental disability to be hired by the county. He works in human resources at the Sheriff’s Office.

“Project SEARCH gives valuable work and lifetime skills that you can apply to other settings,” Sidney said. “I liked getting job experience and learning other skills, such as workplace behavior.”

Project SEARCH also partners with and has host sites at Kaiser Permanente and the Oakland Children’s Hospital.

Anyone interested in learning more about Project SEARCH, should call Lori Kotsonas at 510-618-1580 ext. 15 or go to eastbayinnovations.org. For those interested in participating in the Alameda County Project SEARCH program, contact the Diversity Programs Unit at 510-272-3895, or visit http://www.acgov.org/cao/diversity.

“Let’s Go To Work California!” awardees will document innovative practices for integrated competitive employment”

The California Employment Consortium for Youth and Young Adults with Intellectual and Other Developmental Disabilities (CECY) lead by the Tarjan Center of the University of California Los Angeles awarded seven grants as part of the “Let’s Go To Work California!”  Initiative. Selected programs are located in diverse communities across California including; the Glenn County Office of Education, Taft College in Taft, Sweetwater Unified School District Chula Vista, TransCen in San Francisco, East Bay Innovations in San Leandro, Whittier Union High School District, and the Irvine Unified School District. Awardees will shed light on specific barriers to employment and describe new solutions that can be utilized by programs across the state. These solutions include: using hybrid funding streams to overcome forced tracking, obtaining industry certificates to become more competitive in the job market, creating collaborations to increase job development capacity after funding cuts, and more.  Programs will have 12 months to document best practices in a format that is effective to catalyze wide spread adoption. CECY is an employment work group comprised of representatives from state agencies, expert organizations and self -advocates that seek to increase employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and other disabilities. CECY is one of 6 state groups nationwide which were awarded a federally funded Project of National Significance Partnerships in Employment Systems Change Grant by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. For more information on the Let’s Go To Work California! awardees contact Karen Leventhal at kleventhal@mednet.ucla.edu. For additional information on the overall CECY project contact Olivia Raynor, Ph.D at oraynor@mednet.ucla.edu. For more information and to read project summaries click here: http://www.semel.ucla.edu/tarjan/news/13/jan/16/lets-go-work-grantees-announced

Project Search – New Program at Children’s Hospital Offers Adults with Disabilities Job Training and Hope.

Written and photographed by Gary Turchin.


Project SEARCH intern Lisa, 43, spent 20 years working at a fast food franchise. When a new owner took over, all the adults with disabilities were let go.

“I know it’s against the law,” Lisa said, “but people with disabilities are discriminated against.”

Lisa came to Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland’s Project SEARCH looking for another, hopefully better, job. She’s interning at Materials Management, visiting stockrooms all over the hospital, organizing them and removing expired products, “before,” she said assertively, “the Joint Commission inspection finds them.”

She means it.

Lisa joins 11 other interns—Christine, Derrick, John, David, Jessica, Ryan, Peter, Mariana, Jeff, Leah and Hao—at Project SEARCH, a new job-training program for adults with cognitive disabilities that opened at Children’s Hospital in September 2008.

But the project is new only to Children’s; it comes with a renowned pedigree. Erin Riehle, RN, MSN, founded the program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital a dozen years ago. She has been so successful at employing adults with disabilities and increasing the range of jobs that are open to them, that it has been replicated at more than 70 sites nationally. Children’s is one of the first sites in Northern California.

The need for Project SEARCH, and programs like it, is obvious: The unemployment rate for adults with disabilities approaches 70 percent; and job choices for those who do work are very limited.

It’s sad when you consider that there are few more eager, willing and able individuals out there wanting—needing—to be contributing members of the workforce.

“I really, really want to make my own money,” said intern Derrick, 23. “That’s why I came here (Project SEARCH) in the first place.”


Children’s Project SEARCH program is funded by the Regional Center of the East Bay and the California State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Oakland Adult and Career Education funds the teacher component. East Bay Innovations (EBI) manages the effort. The program is operated at no cost to Children’s Hospital.

Lori Kotsonas, director of Employment Services at EBI, directs Project SEARCH at Children’s Hospital. “The main purpose of Project SEARCH,” she explained, “is to provide real-world work opportunities for people with disabilities in a larger variety of fields than were previously available.”

In the past, workers with disabilities were frequently relegated to menial labor performed out of view. Project SEARCH wants to expand the job horizon, and even the career horizon, of its clients. Lori is ambitious for them.

“People with developmental disabilities have proven to be very capable,” she said, “especially if presented with a job that is routine and systematic.”

Routine and systematic are the keys to the Project SEARCH pick-up truck. Even if a job is complex, if it can be broken down into routines, and performed systematically, with the right support or assisted technologies, the interns can drive almost any job successfully.

But Lori, ever the advocate, wants more than just jobs for her interns; she wants careers, benefits, and opportunities to move up the ladder.

“It’s nice that you can be a bagger for 15 years,” she said, “and maybe, for some that’s enough. But for others, why shouldn’t they also get promoted? ”

Assisted Technologies

Another key to Project SEARCH’s success is a willingness to look with fresh eyes at how jobs are done. Sometimes a simple innovation—or assisted technology—is all it takes to tap a client ’s special abilities.

That’s where job coaches and teachers come in. Three full-time job coaches and two part-time job teachers serve Children’s interns, overseeing their labors, reinforcing their skills, and just as importantly, finding ways to accommodate jobs to an intern’s abilities or disabilities.

That could mean many things, from creating a picture book of instructions for an intern who can’t read or follow written ones, to designing a system with precounted slots, or envelopes, for an intern who has trouble keeping track of numbers.

Teacher Cathy Nielsen has been guiding intern Christine, 35, through a big filing job in Children’s Human Resources department. When Christine first started the assignment, she had trouble reading the file labels she was pasting on the folders. Cathy suggested a simple solution: bigger type. It sounds like a small change, but it made a big difference to Christine’s job success.

Cathy went to the trouble of finding employee files with long names on them to determine how large the type could be while still fitting the name across the label. The bonus: Now the files aren’t just easier for Christine to read; they are easier for everyone to read.

At Project SEARCH, that’s called a “universal design change,” because it benefits all workers, not just the disabled, long into the future.

Another benefit—for children with disabilities—is seeing working role models such as Christine, Lisa, Derrick and all the Project SEARCH interns and graduates. Seeing adults with disabilities in the hospital, working and productive, assures parents and kids with disabilities that there is hope and a future for them.

All in the Family

For Linda Tywoniak, director of Compliance at Children’s Hospital’s research center, bringing Project SEARCH to the hospital was personal. Her son is a client at East Bay Innovations, and she knew Project SEARCH had a stellar reputation. With her help, a Cincinnati Children’s delegation, including project founder Erin Riehle, came to Oakland to pitch their program.

Doug Myers, Children’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, made the call. “I just saw it as an incredible program that gave people who otherwise weren’t given a shot, a chance to be productive members of our workforce,” he said. “I could see both the joy that it brought to the interns, while at the same time fulfilling a valuable need for the institution.”

Linda understands the joy part, intimately.

“Because of my son,” Linda acknowledged, “I know what this program can do for these young workers emotionally, and for their self-esteem and hope for the future.

“You know, for their whole lives they have been put down,” she said, then paused to gather herself. It’s a painful and personal truth.

“It’s good for them and good for us,” she continued. “It makes us all slow down, appreciate what they are doing and what we are doing.

“It also enables all of the public involved with Children’s Hospital Oakland to actually see that these individuals have more capabilities and talents than someone might think.”