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KNOXVILLE — A newly restructured University of Tennessee organization is boosting its efforts to help people with disabilities get jobs, education, and a better quality of life.

UT’s Center on Disability and Employment (CDE), formerly known as UT-Technology, Inclusion and Employment or UT-TIE, has since 1987 encouraged employers, human service professionals, community leaders and academic institutions to better accommodate people with disabilities in everyday life.

Dr. Debra Martin-Luecking, center director, said those efforts will continue and be augmented by more research and more collaboration with UT staff, faculty and students.

“The new center status enhances our contribution to the mission of the land grant university,” Martin-Luecking said. “It provides opportunity for more UT faculty, staff, and students to collaborate through professional development, outreach, and scholarship.

“It also allows us to become a living laboratory for applied research on disability and employment issues.”

Luecking said the CDE advocates a philosophy of self-determination, which entails teaching persons with disabilities to “speak up for themselves” and to know what accommodations they need to perform a job.

Center staff and faculty facilitate change through information and education, she said.

“We teach others — professionals, employers, and state leaders — techniques to increase their ability to support people with disabilities in their career choice and to use the community in ways that are available to us all,” Luecking said.

“We use interactive techniques to try to learn who the person is and what value they have that they can bring to others. We also support competitive employment and community involvement for anyone regardless of their disability or need for accommodation.”

The organization has a strong record of helping people with serious disabilities communicate better, build self-esteem, and gain skills so that they may lead more independent and fuller lives. Many recipients of CDE services have gone from sheltered care or day activities at group homes and centers to get jobs and lead fuller, happier lives, Luecking said.

The center also offers services to help families, businesses and community groups improve accommodations for people with disabilities.

The CDE is part of the UT College of Education, Health and Human Sciences; the Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities, Tennessee’s University Center for Excellence in Disabilities; and the Continuing Education Program for Community Rehabilitation Providers in the Southeast region.

For more information, call (865) 974-9400, or visit the center Web site at