What is Employment First? Employment First means that competitive, integrated employment should be the first and preferred choice available for individuals with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems. It starts with the presumption that a person with a disability can work. For too long people with disabilities have had to demonstrate their “readiness” for employment. Everyone has the right to work.
Thirty-nine states have an official Employment First policy based on legislation, policy directive, etc. Twenty-one states have passed legislation stating that integrated employment is preferred over other service options. Eighteen states have a policy directive, executive order, or similar official policy statement, but not legislation. Seven states have both legislation and a non-legislative policy directive.
Twenty-seven states have policies that are cross-disability, i.e., include all forms of disability, including but not limited to acquired, congenital, intellectual, brain, neurologic, sensory, mobility, and mental health. Twelve states’ policies are focused exclusively on individuals with I/DD.
In addition to the thirty-nine states with Employment First policies, eleven states have underway Employment First efforts and initiatives, but no official Employment First policy has been issued. These states vary in their level of activity including initial expressions of interest in Employment First with limited follow-up, legislation introduced but not yet passed, formation of task forces, and robust systems change efforts.
Special shout out and thank you from the disability community to Arizona State Senator Steve Kaiser for sponsoring and reading SCR 1012 (Employment First Concurrent Resolution) on April 11, 2023. Hopefully, this will encourage state agencies and private businesses to hire more individuals with disabilities.
Additional resources can be found on the Employment First Resource List, Employment First State Transformation Guide, and Arizona Employment First Website.
Check out the article in Chamber Business News regarding a resolution put forth by Arizona State Sen. Kaiser.
More than words: Taking Arizona’s Employment First Philosophy from Theory to Practice
State Sen. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, recently presented a resolution to his Senate colleagues that might be one of the most important pieces of business the Legislature attends to this session. It didn’t assert the need for a balanced budget or a secure border or call for passage of a bill that would divide supporters and opponents along partisan lines. What it did was affirm that every person, regardless of ability, should have the right to pursue meaningful work that is essential so that individuals with disabilities in Arizona can thrive.
The first few lines of Sen. Kaiser’s resolution articulate a goal that should be obvious to anyone and yet remains frustratingly elusive. “Every Arizonan should have the opportunity to participate in the workforce, including those who have disabilities.”
Read the rest of the Chamber Business News article here