Staff Report

The first of its kind in Santa Barbara County, the Braided Service program of UCP Work Inc. offers people with intellectual and developmental disabilities a fully integrated employment skill-training service that may result in an upward shift in employment for people with disabilities.

Program officials said there are very few resources available for individuals with disabilities to build a strong foundation and skills needed to get into the workforce, especially as they transition from youth services to adult services.

The Braided Service program allows people to go through an employment assessment process, take specific courses, and learn skills within a classroom and community setting.

The program also plans to partner with local businesses to provide internships to its participating students and fostering inclusive employment practices.

The program will be under the same roof as the Applied Abilities Program at the Westside Community Center in Santa Barbara, which hosts 55 students. Classes there are taught in cooking, yoga, gardening, flower arranging, art expression, community integration, language, landscaping, singing, and work experience.

“Traditional day programs are going to be obsolete in the near future. People with disabilities, their families and service providers are moving towards full integration programs, which offers free choice to all members, regardless of their disability. The goal is to find jobs for our members in the community and bridge the gap between youth services and adult services,” said Matt Dursam, Director of Applied Abilities Programs South.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities make up the largest minority in the United States, yet they are also the most untapped workforce, program officials said.

“Businesses that have hired individuals with disabilities can attest to the positive impact on their business when they employ a person with disabilities who has completed the preparation for the workplace and has the support of job coaching … The average length of employment by a UCP WORK Inc. employment placement is 15 years,” said Director of Program Services Judy Linares.

For more information, visit or call 805-566-9070.