Governors Making Dramatic Changes to Expand Employment for People with Disabilities (PwDs)
Disability Leaders to Meet With Governors To Discuss Employment For People With Disabilities
Washington, D.C. – As the National Governor’s Association (NGA) begins its meeting in Washington, many of the nation’s governors are making dramatic, positive changes to expand job opportunities and avenues for success for people with disabilities. The changes are an outgrowth of the NGA Chairs’ Initiative, “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities” led by previous NGA Chairman, Gov. Jack Markell (DE). The initiative created a blueprint that identified best practices and outlined steps that can be put in place by businesses and states to increase employment of people with disabilities.
Current NGA Chairman Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s initiative, America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs also focuses on employment. Disability leaders have asked all Governors to include people with disabilities in their workforce development plans.
At the last NGA conference a delegation of disability leaders including RespectAbilityUSA President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, The National Federation of the Blind, Best Buddies International and USBLN spoke with 16 Governors to encourage them to follow the blue print’s suggestions. These same leaders are meeting with Governors again at this weekend’s NGA meeting in order to encourage even more progress.
Since the last NGA meeting in August there has been positive change around America. Said RespectAbilityUSA’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “We have been deeply impressed by the initial work done to making positive change a reality. The speed in which some of the governors are moving is outstanding.” For example:
- Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) quickly improved policies and practices and made it a key point in his State of the State address. He has expanded to 20 Project Search sites in his state, which will help young people with disabilities go straight into jobs instead of a life of dependency. He has become a role model for expansion of opportunities for people with disabilities.
- Gov. Dennis Daugaard (SD) did the same in his State of the State address and has created a very specific plan to move ahead. Both of Gov. Daugaard’s parents are deaf, he has a special understanding of these issues.
- Governor Rick Scott (FL) recommended and the Florida Legislature approved $500,000 this year to fund job internships and Supported Employment for people with developmental disabilities. This is in addition to programs that provide job coaches to more than 3,000 people with developmental disabilities.
- The California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) is sharing best practices that were initiated through membership on the CSAVR National Employment Team (NET) — which works with employers to meet their business needs in the hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities. The DOR is engaged in many promising practices which have positively impacted the employment of people with disabilities, including new partnerships with Lowe’s and Safeway.
- Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois started “employment first policies.”
- Iowa’s Governor Terry Brandstad has been working with Sen. Tom Harkin on solutions.
- Yesterday Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia committed to focus on employment for PwDs at a rally that was co-keynoted by RespectAbilityUSA’s President and himself.
One in five Americans has a disability. Today there are more than nine million working age Americans with disabilities living off of government benefits. Polls show that the majority of people with disabilities polled want to work.
Said RespectAbilityUSA’s president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, “There is a an important place for benefits as a safety net. But, employment will achieve what benefits never could: selfespect, dignity and a real chance to achieve the American dream. We cannot afford to have talented Americans sit at home when they want to help make America stronger. As a nation we need people with disabilities in the competitive workforce at fair, competitive wages. Every American who can work should be encouraged to do so.”
Key facts the delegation will bring up with the governors in meetings during the NGA:
- Fully, 70% percent of Americans with disabilities are outside the workforce, a percentage that has been unchanged since before the ADA was passed in 1990. This compares to 28% of Americans without disabilities.
- Polls show that the vast majority of people with disabilities want to work at least part time. Employer perceptions and a benefit system that penalizes people for working are key impediments.
- People with disabilities, when their talents are aligned with the needs of their employers are outstanding employees. Walgreens, AMC, EY and others have shown that hiring PwDs is good for the corporate bottom line.
- Payments to Americans with disabilities cost taxpayers hundreds of billions a year.
- The trust fund for the Social Security disability insurance program will run out of money in 2016 if nothing significant is changed.
RespectAbilityUSA is a national non-profit, non-partisan organization whose mission is empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. For more information go to www.RespectAbilityUSA.org