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PDS Philosophy

integrity (in teg ri te)

n. 1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code


"Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do"

- Don Galer

"When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through." - Steve Jobs

There are 20 values that drive People with Disabilities Succeeding (see below), which we often refer to as the "PDS Philosophy."

This moral code, if you will, is non-negotiable, and compromising any of these values would be compromising the purpose of our entire program. The secret to our success, and the achievement for which we are the most proud, is the fact that PDS has maintained our integrity, even when it has been costly, time consuming and labor intensive to do so.


PDS’s mission is driven by our philosophies regarding the rights of people with disabilities to be included as active members of their communities and to live their lives with dignity and respect. Research confirms that a program designed such as ours is not only the most humane and motivating way to support people but is also the most effective. The types of services that PDS provides are considered to be current "best practices" in the fields of Special Education and Vocational Education. As an employee of PDS, you are expected to adhere to the following “best practices” which reflect the philosophy and mission of PDS. 

PDS Values and Rationale


1. Community-Based Instruction

Instruction is provided in the context in which living and working skills will ultimately be used and centers on skills essential to success in natural environments. 



  • Research shows that the acquisition of functional skills increases with instruction in natural environments. 

  • The use of natural environments reduces the need for generalization, which studies have shown to be a difficult concept for those with cognitive disabilities. 

  • The natural environments provide appropriate non-disabled role models. 

  • Natural consequences can be utilized in community environments. 

  • Community environments enrich instructional opportunities not available in centers or segregated classrooms. 


2. Integrated

People with disabilities participate in activities and settings in proximity to, and in interaction with, their non-disabled peers, coworkers, and fellow community members. 


  • Non-disabled people develop an awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities and can observe what they are capable of doing. 

  • People with disabilities tend to be more motivated in integrated settings. 

  • Non-disabled people can serve as appropriate models of behavior. 

  • Support staff can analyze the skills that the people need to successfully interact with others and develop strategies to promote social interactions. 

  • People with disabilities have the right to participate in public integrated activities and places. 


3. Functional Activities and Skills

People with disabilities are assisted in acquiring and/or improving skills and activities which, if not performed by them, would have to be performed by someone else -- skills which are essential to success in present and future natural environments. 


  • People are more likely to acquire and/or improve skills, which are meaningful and appropriate. 

  • Functional skills lead to natural and immediate reinforcement. 

  • Being taught nonfunctional skills can be frustrating and degrading. 


4. Chronological age-appropriate activities and skills

People with disabilities are encouraged to participate in activities, which their non-disabled peers tend to engage in and instructional emphasis is placed on skills, which are age-appropriate. 


  • We want to minimize the stigmatizing discrepancies between people with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. 

  • We want to respectfully regard people as adults and encourage them to regard themselves as adults as well. 

  • Age-appropriate activities are needed to allow people to acquire skills to perform as independently as possible. 


5. Natural Proportion

When accompanying people into community settings, the employee takes precautions to assure that in any given environment, the proportion of disabled to non-disabled people is as natural as possible. (People with disabilities comprise approximately 10% of the population. People with severe disabilities comprise 1%.) 


  • Big groups of people with disabilities can be intimidating and reduce the likelihood of social integration. 

  • Adhering to natural proportions prevents undue attention to people with disabilities and increases the people "blending in" with their non-disabled peers. 


6. Heterogeneous Grouping

When grouping is necessary for financial reasons, people are grouped so that a mix of people with varying abilities is achieved, including people with more skills and with those that need more assistance. 


  • Heterogeneous groups are more manageable for the employee, as they are able to concentrate more intense assistance on the person with more needs while unobtrusively providing support to the other people as well. 

  • The people with more needs utilizes the more independent peers as positive role models. 

  • The more independent people have opportunities to exercise their independence, utilize their skills, and even teach them to others. 

7. Partial Participation

People with disabilities are encouraged and supported to participate to the fullest extent possible in functional activities. Not everyone is expected to become independent. For some people, the degree to which they are able to participate may only be partial but the kind and degree of partial participation in integrated natural environments will be increased through direct systematic instruction. 


  • People with disabilities achieve a feeling of success and self-sufficiency through partial participation and experience the effect that they can have on their environment. 

  • Partial participation results in a person being perceived as a more valuable, contributing and striving member of society. 

8. Individualized Instruction

Focus is placed on individuals rather than groups, and services rather than "programming." The individuals we serve are not expected to fit into the program. Instead, planning and support revolves around the unique needs of the individual, taking the person's culture, strengths, weaknesses, interests, age and lifestyle into consideration. Individual Support Plans (“ISP” ’s) with individual long-term goals and short-term objectives are developed for each person. People are supported to achieve these goals and objectives within meaningful natural routines, activities and contexts. 


9. Individual Adaptations

Adaptations such as ordering cards, augmentative and alternative communication devices, picture shopping lists, etc. are utilized and designed to meet the individual needs of each person, to allow for and/or encourage at least partial participation. 

10. Zero-Exclusion

All people, regardless of their labels or their history, have an equal opportunity to participate to the fullest extent possible in the community with support from PDS. 


  • All people have a right to receive the same opportunities regardless of their labels or their history. 

  • Given motivation and support, most people regardless of the level or type of disability, can be successful in integrated work and community living. 

  • Everyone deserves the "dignity of risk", meaning the opportunity to try things and fail or to have the same lifestyle that others have even if that involves a certain degree of risk. 


11. Positive Approach for Individuals with Difficult Behavior

Employees are trained to be supportive to people and do not raise their voices, humiliate or punish the individuals we serve. The role of the employee is to provide assistance and support, not to take the place of a boss at a job site. Employee’s act as friends and advocates. 


  • Adults with disabilities have the same rights as those without disabilities -- including the right to be treated with dignity and respect. 

  • Punishment has been shown to be an ineffective form of behavior modification. 

  • Employees with disabilities perform best in employment settings when primary directions and supervision comes from their employer rather than staff. 

  • Most people respond to guidance when they are being treated as equals, and when suggestions come from caring rather than from the need to control. 


12. Self-Advocacy/Advocacy

Agency employees are trained and encouraged to act as advocates for their clients and to teach the individuals we serve about their rights and responsibilities and how to most effectively advocate for themselves 


13. Person Centered Planning

The individuals we serve are assisted to devise their own ISP on a yearly basis, based on their own dreams, needs and desires for the future. Discussions held during ISP meetings are respectfully directed towards the person as much as possible instead of talking about the person as though they weren't there. People are encouraged to invite anyone they want to ISP meetings and the "interdisciplinary team" or "circle of support" consisting of friends, parents, caregivers, therapists, coworkers and/or instructors all work together as a team to determine how they can help support the person to achieve his goals. 


  • Person Centered Planning emphasizes the positive aspects of each individual we serve rather than focusing on a person's deficits. 

  • Adult Support Providers should regard the people we serve as individuals who have the right to the services that they want rather than what we think they need. 


14. Systematic Instruction

Instructional strategies are systematically applied according to a written plan. Data is regularly collected and analyzed, and decisions are made based on the data. Individual routines and schedules are developed so that activities can occur on a predictable, consistent basis. 


  • Because employee turnover in the field can be high, it is important to use detailed schedules, put as much information about the individuals we serve, and policies and procedures in writing, as possible, to ensure consistency and prevent disruption in our clients' lives when employees leave. 

  • Measurement of person's progress shows whether intervention is effective. 

  • Data displays how behavior changes over time. 

  • Instructors can justify instructional strategies and make modifications based on documented evidence. 

  • People learn best when they can predict what will happen each day and certain skills within the activities can become habitual. 


15. Facilitation of Interactions

Employees are trained to enthusiastically promote and facilitate interactions between people with and without disabilities at all times. 


  • Studies have shown that while physically integrated, individuals may remain socially segregated. 

  • Non-disabled people often don't initiate interactions with people with disabilities because of discomfort, shyness, lack of information and negative past experiences. 


16. Natural Supports

Worksite personnel and non-disabled community members are encouraged and trained to provide support to individuals with disabilities so the employees with disabilities are not completely dependent on paid employees for all of their support needs. 



  • Naturally occurring supports increase skill acquisition and social integration. 

  • Social interactions between employees with and without disabilities increase after coworkers are included in the training process. 

  • Natural supports decrease the phenomenon of a person with a disability being physically integrated yet socially segregated. 

  • By teaching people to utilize supports that are naturally available in their community, they are able to participate more independently in integrated environments with less reliance on paid staff. 


17. Regarding people from the general community as "customers" of the agency

Employers', coworkers and other community members' needs are considered when interacting within integrated environments. Employees are expected to adhere to the norms of society as much as possible and to respect the perspectives of the non-disabled public. 


  • Ultimately, people with disabilities are better served and included in the community when efforts are made to help them be welcomed. 

18. Individual/Direct Hire Employment & Micro-enterprises

Individuals are interviewed and hired directly by the companies they work for and not as an enclave. Subcontracted work is not sought after or accepted. When more than one PDS client works at the same job site, they are dispersed throughout the environment and work on separate tasks throughout different departments. 


  • By directly hiring individuals with disabilities, the employer is obligated to treat the employee as any other with the same rights, benefits and rules. 

  • Individual rather than group job placements decrease the likelihood of people being stereotyped or viewed as a "special crew". 

  • Individual job placements are less stigmatizing and preferable to most individuals with disabilities. 


19. At Least Minimum Wage Payment

All individuals supported in employment settings receive at least the minimum wage for work performed. 


  • Individuals with disabilities have the same rights as other workers. 

  • Time studies and sub-minimum wage determinations are often very difficult to accurately obtain, biased and open to interpretation. 

  • Most employers do not pay the majority of their employees' minimum wage. Therefore, by paying a less productive employee with a disability the minimum wage, they are still saving money if the disabled workers are less productive. 

20. Parent/Caregiver/ "Significant Others" Involvement

The person's family/caregivers/"significant others" (i.e. close friends) are regarded as an important source of information (concerning the person's present level of competency and comprehensive needs) and close contact and ongoing communication with families/caregivers is stressed, even when they are not legal conservators. 


  • The loved ones of the people we serve know them best and are our most valuable source of information. 

  • With input and support of families, we are able to better serve our clients. 

  • When families feel respected and valued, they are more likely to help support the individual with disabilities to be successful. 

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