October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which this year celebrates 50 years of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There are many benefits to disability employment, both for individuals and for our communities. For individuals with disabilities, employment can provide increased financial independence and security, opportunities for social interaction and growth, and access to health insurance and other benefits. For communities, disability employment can lead to increased economic productivity and enable a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
In 2013, then-Delaware Governor Jack Markell was Chair of the National Governors Association. As his Chair’s Initiative, the Governor focused on advancing employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities by:
- Educating both private-sector and public-sector employers about accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace and the benefits of doing so;
- Supporting state governments in joining with business partners to develop blueprints to promote the hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities in integrated employment in both the public and private sectors; and
- Establishing public–private partnerships to build out those blueprints and increase employment of individuals with disabilities.
“As governors and chief executive officers of our states, we have an opportunity to forge a path so that all citizens have an equal opportunity to lead independent and productive lives. It’s the right thing to do, the smart thing to do for our taxpayers, and, as I’ve heard firsthand from business, it makes good business sense.”Governor Jack Markell
The yearlong initiative culminated in a blueprint for Governors which focused on the employment of people with disabilities and the role of states in assisting businesses. It was organized into five topic areas that emerged from discussions over the course of the year and presents examples of actions governors can take in each area.
- Make disability employment part of the state workforce development strategy.
- Find and support businesses in their efforts to employ people with disabilities.
- Be a model employer by increasing the number of people with disabilities working in state government.
- Prepare youth with disabilities for careers that use their full potential, providing employers with a pipeline of skilled workers.
- Make the best use of limited resources to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Progress has been made since 2013 with increased labor force participation for persons with disabilities, but there is still much more work to be done.
Expanding access to education, training and high-quality employment opportunities for people with disabilities is a bipartisan priority for Governors. Governors play a key role in helping to expand inclusivity in the workforce and leading their states in developing policy and programs that provide economic opportunity for people with disabilities.
The National Governors Association is a proud partner in the State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED), a unique state-federal collaboration facilitated by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy to support state and local governments in adopting and implementing inclusive policies and best practices that lead to increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and a stronger, more inclusive American workforce and economy. Learn more about this program and Governors’ work to foster inclusion here.
For more information on Governors’ work to foster disability employment please contact the NGA Workforce Development and Economic Policy team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates the important role of workers with disabilities, past and present, and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices that benefit employers and employees in Connecticut. I am proud of the way that Connecticut has been a leader in protecting the rights of people with disabilities when it comes to employment issues, and particularly proud of the many businesses in our state that make every effort to include people of all abilities as valued members of their workforces.”
"The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate the public about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. Workplaces welcoming the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy."
"Wisconsin employers that recruit, retain, and support the success of workers of various abilities are serving as good examples for others to follow. We want to help all Wisconsin employers build a workforce that reflects the diversity of our state, and we believe that when we all work together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable Wisconsin for everyone."
"South Carolinians with disabilities have the same aspirations to work competitively and contribute to their communities as everyone else. The support and cooperation of all people are needed to reduce the attitudinal and physical barriers that hinder the full acceptance of people with disabilities and their rightful place in employment."