We are the Oregon state chapter of APSE, a national non-profit organization that supports Employment First to facilitate the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and community.

Vision Logo

To promote equitable, integrated employment of people with disabilities that recognizes their contributions as community members, we support the following tenets:

  • Communities are enriched when everyone is included in the workforce.
  • Meaningful employment including comparable work hours and compensation is possible for all who choose to work.
  • Everyone has the right to a career path that supports their chosen lifestyle.

National APSE Website

Oregon APSE Vision:

Oregonians with all types of disabilities are employed, enjoy careers, and build assets in pursuit of meaningful lives.

Oregon APSE Mission:

To promote equitable, integrated employment of people with disabilities that recognizes their contributions as community members.

Oregon APSE supports:

  • Integrated individual employment defined as a job that meets the needs of the business community, pays competitive wages, provides comparable benefits and opportunities to fully engage with non-disabled co-workers, and for most people is at least 20 hours per week.

Therefore, Oregon APSE will:

  • Build alliances with advocates, families, employers, providers, funders and local communities to promote integrated individual employment throughout Oregon.
  • Advocate for policies, communication, and training that supports substantial improvement and measurable outcomes specific to integrated individual employment.

Want to become an Oregon APSE Member? Click Here!

Oregon APSE Board Members:

Nicholas Von Pless, President


Nicholas started at a very young age supporting people with disabilities in recreational activities, and since 2008 has been working in Supported Employment. He is currently an Employment First Consultant with Living Opportunities, providing technical assistance, strategic planning, and training to organizations around Oregon. Nicholas specializes in customized employment, seamless transition, program development, Discovery, and working with individuals on the autism spectrum. In addition to service with Oregon APSE, Nicholas also serves on the board of PHAME, an education and performance academy serving people with disabilities. In his spare time, Nicholas enjoys playing guitar, bicycling, and adventure seeking, near and far, with his wife Alana.

Michelle Furman, Vice President

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Michelle is the Community Employment Services Project Manager at Shangri-La. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences from Linfield College. Michelle is excited for the opportunity to help move our communities and individuals forward into integrated employment.  She is a Certified Employment Support Professional with APSE and is a member of the Oregon APSE Board. Michelle is actively involved in her community through facilitating the Marion & Polk Employment First Network and is also involved in the Lincoln and Lane Employment First teams.  She is a strong advocate for integrated community employment and has been developing Shangri-La’s Community Employment Services since July 2014.  She also serves as a member of the Oregon Employment Learning Network (OELN) Discovery Training team. Michelle enjoys spending time with her family, being outdoors, camping and has plans on restoring a vintage trailer and a 1966 Chevy truck which will be family projects!

Paula Johnson, Treasurer


Paula has had a passion for employment for people with disabilities for over 30 years and has experience in job development, job analysis, career planning, staff training, marketing and management.  During her nine-year tenure at The University of San Francisco, McLaren School of Business, she directed California’s Supported Employment statewide training projects and led the California Corporate Initiative.  She is the former national Director of Best Buddies Jobs and led the expansion of employment programs across the US and Latin America.  Paula is currently a program specialist with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center – Project SEARCH and assists schools, employment agencies, funding agencies and employers with the development of Project SEARCH programs in 15 states and Canada.  Paula’s involvement with APSE has included serving as the President of the APSE Foundation from 2011 to 2014, assisting with the development of the Oregon APSE Chapter, and Treasurer of OR APSE.

CJ Webb, Secretary


CJ has supported people in many capacities for over 25 years. She is passionate about providing employment information, so people can live and work based on their skills, strengths, and gifts. She currently works at Vocational Rehabilitation, as a Pre-Employment Transition Services Program Coordinator. She is a Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP) and a Person-Centered Thinking Mentor Trainer, credentialed through The Learning Community for Person Centered Practices. She has been a Personal Futures Plan facilitator since 1996, and also facilitates other person-centered plans such as Essential Lifestyle Plans (ELP), PATH and MAP. One of her favorite excerpts is: Our jobs should help us take the vacations that help us live a full life. She loves to cook, bake, go backpacking, hiking, and seeing live music. CJ is currently the Oregon APSE Chapter Secretary and newsletter, The Focus, publisher.

Tara Asai


Starting as a special education teacher, Tara has worked across disability services for over 35 years. She has been fortunate to learn from inspiring leaders including many individuals receiving services to develop services steeped in person centered planning. During her 13-year tenure at UCP of Oregon and SW Washington, she oversaw the total transition of residential and employment services from congregate to individualized supports. Currently, through Asai & Associates, Inc. and Marc Gold & Associates Inc., she trains and consults on person centered planning, individualized support services, and organizational development. Tara is the President of the Oregon Chapter of APSE. She holds an MS in Special Education and a MMHS (Masters in Management of Human Services) from Brandeis University. Tara is native Oregonian and enjoys the arts, running, swimming, and traveling.

Erin Cochrun-Weston


Erin is the Assistant Director of Day and Employment services for Albertina Kerr Centers.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s in Organizational Communication from Marylhurst University. Erin is excited and passionate about having the opportunity to help move our communities and individuals forward into integrated employment.  She is a Certified Employment Support Professional with APSE and is a member of the Oregon APSE Board. Erin was hired by Albertina Kerr to build their Employment Service in 2014. To date, Kerr’s Employment services now serve over 30 individuals in supported jobs, and has eleven full time Employment staff. Besides our Employment services, Albertina Kerr also has three Project SEARCH programs throughout the Tri-County area. Kerr was the first agency to start a licensed Project SEARCH program in the state of Oregon, something we are very proud of. Erin is a strong advocate for integrated employment and finds a lot of joy watching employment transform the lives of the individuals we serve. Erin enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking and camping, reading, and also enjoys home remodeling and projects.

Liz Fox


Liz Fox is the Executive Director of Alternative Work Concepts, a nationally recognized supported employment agency in Eugene, Oregon. She works specifically with people who have multiple physical and intellectual disabilities creating individualized positions in the community based on their interests and abilities. Liz has a BS in Special Education from the University of Vermont. Since coming to Oregon in 1991, she has been involved with a variety of stakeholder groups most recently, the Oregon State Rehabilitation Council and the Executive Order Policy Group. She has been a member of APSE since 2013.

Emily Harris


Emily Harris has had the good fortune to be affiliated with people with disabilities throughout her life. She has experience as an Employment Consultant and a Positive Behavior Support consultant with individuals, families, and employment agencies in the Pacific Northwest. She also has international consulting experience with employment agencies across New Zealand. Emily  is committed to the concept of inclusion, and knows employment is critical to equity. Emily is a primary trainer and the manager for the Oregon Employment Learning Network (OELN), a  person centered planning facilitator, and teaches the spring quarter of the Clark County Highline Employment Professional Certificate Program. She holds a BS in Arts in Letters with a focus in women studies and English, and is a Certified Employment Professional (CESP) through APSE.

Elizabeth Juaniza-Saso

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Elizabeth Juaniza- Saso serves as a Transition Network  Facilitator (TNF) with the Multnomah Education Service District and is part of the larger statewide, Transition Technical Assistance Network in Oregon. Her role is to support schools and community agencies in strengthening transition services and improving outcomes for youth with disabilities as they transition into adulthood. She believes that everyone can work and that building strong systems of community support with a person-centered lens is key. She has taught in secondary schools as a special educator and holds a  Masters in Science along with a K-12 teaching licensure in Special Education.

Roberta Dunn

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Roberta Dunn has been a parent advocate and leader in the disability community since the birth of her son twenty-six years ago.  Roberta is the Executive director of FACT Oregon, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) designated Parent Training and Information center (PTI) for Oregon. FACT is dedicated to empowering Oregon families experiencing disability by offering family support that is “by families for families.” It does so with focused work in three interconnected areas: expanding awareness, growing community, and equipping families. The outcome is families with high expectations for their child and a vision for the future where all communities are accessible, welcoming, and embrace that disability is natural.

Debra McLean


Debra is passionate about seeing all people obtain employment. Since 1988, she has been intrigued with community building and person centered planning as a way to see individuals with disabilities succeed in jobs that fit them. She has worked for the University of Oregon and Oregon Health Sciences University on a number of projects involving people with disabilities and employment. Debra provides training and consultation on employment and person centered planning in Washington and Oregon. She has taught classes on these topics at Portland State University in the Teacher Education Program and for Highline Community College. Debra has worked with schools, families, agencies, businesses, and individuals, both in the US and in Australia. She has a MS in Rehabilitation Counseling and Deafness.

Ryan Farrow

Ryan brings years of experience in the supported employment field, supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live full lives and contribute to their communities through competitive, integrated employment.

In 2019, Ryan was enthusiastic to join CBRE and Nike’s partnership to nurture an integrative workplace by leveraging the skills and valued contributions of people of all abilities. Based at Nike World Headquarters, he works for CBRE managing the Supported Employment Program to design and implement strategies for leveraging job seekers with I/DD into a variety of positions.

Prior to joining CBRE in January 2019, he worked as a program manager, job coach, job developer, trainer, Highline College instructor and has an Assistive Technology Applications Certification through California State University Northridge.

Ryley Newport

Ryley Newport

Ryley Newport is the Communications Director with the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (OCDD) in Portland, Oregon. He has worked for the past 10 years in the disability field primarily in the role of expanding the involvement of individuals with disabilities and their family members in social and policy change. Prior to joining OCDD, Ryley worked for the Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition (OSAC), the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, the Washington Initiative for Supported Employment (WISE) and Washington State’s Developmental Disability Council. When not working, he spends his time exploring and surfing in Oregon with his family.

Dan Peccia


Dan is currently the Executive Director of Self-Determination Resources, Inc.  He began work in the field in 1986 while at Purdue University, working part time in a group home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) as well as doing 1:1 in home and community services with individuals experiencing a variety of disabilities.  After receiving his degree in Social Work from Purdue, Dan has worked in a variety of roles in the IDD field including, residential and vocational services and case management.  Dan started directing a brokerage in 2001 and has been the Executive Director of SDRI since 2004. Philosophically, Dan firmly believes that real employment is an essential key to unlocking true community integration.

Toni Smith


Toni is the Trainer Coordinator at Oregon Resource Association (ORA). Her passion for service started through various volunteer opportunities at a young age and caught fire in 1994 as she began working at Partnerships in Community Living (PCL). In 2000 Toni decided to explore a new opportunity to pursue her dream of serving in the military. She chose to serve as a medic in the Army National Guard (2000 – 2009). In 2009 she re-joined her work family at PCL. During her tenure at PCL, Toni has had the opportunity to explore a variety of roles starting as a Receptionist, Public Relations and Direct Support Professional and moving into Residential and Employment Support Professional, Residential Coordinator, Employment Coordinator, Employment Area Director and Trainer. Toni finds joy in her job by providing support to people in finding their own passions and skills to live and work how they choose. Away from work, Toni enjoys spending time with her family, Blazer basketball, and exploring the variety of outdoor activities that Oregon has to offer including hiking, Oregon State football, and horseback riding.

Ivy Tate

(photo/ bio coming soon…)