As states strive to promote workforce inclusion, people with disabilities—including veterans with service connected disabilities—are a key part of the solution. Recognizing the important role that state policy and state policymakers play in advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) supports a number of initiatives aimed at assisting legislators, governors, senior agency officials, and disability advocates working at the state level to develop, implement, and promote inclusive policies.
One example is its work around Employment First, which helps states to align their policies and publicly funded service delivery systems to advance community-based, integrated employment as the first-choice option for people with disabilities. To advance Employment First, ODEP initiated the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program, which provides intensive technical assistance to core states, and an Employment First Community of Practice, which currently has approximately 1500 people representing government, disability service providers, and disability stakeholders across 45 states. Furthermore, to support these and other efforts, the ODEP-funded LEAD Center developed the Data and Resources to Inspire a Vision of Employment (DRIVE) website, a comprehensive resource for policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders to obtain state-specific data, including comparisons, and learn about national trends and state Employment First activities.
State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED)
Through its State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED), ODEP actively engages in both formal* and informal collaborations with leading organizations that represent state policymakers. Working directly with these intermediary organizations, SEED aims to equip states with timely data, sample policy options, state examples, and technical assistance support that ensure state–level policy critical to employment successsuch as workforce development, economic opportunity, transportation, and technologyis disability inclusive.
- Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs (BHCC)
- Council of State Governments* (CSG)
- National Conference of State Legislatures* (NCSL)
- Women in Government* (WIG)
- National Governors Association* (NGA)
- National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (NCNASL)
- Western Governors Association (WGA)
SEED has engaged with state legislators, governors' offices and agency leadership from 46 states and provided direct technical assistance to 22 states to enact more than 90 new laws, recruit more than 250 state legislative and executive level champions, and sign seven executive orders, including the establishment of a cabinet-level statewide task force. Enacted legislation since SEED's inception has ranged from establishing states as model employers of people with disabilities to a person centered approach to career development and career readiness to reducing transportation barriers through accessible transportation options.
One of SEED's most notable accomplishments has been the National Task Force on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities, a SEED collaboration convened by CSG and NCSL. The result was “Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities,” a culmination of intensive deliberation and research that offers states 13 broad policy options and 48 suggested strategies, as well as more than 240 examples of innovative, successfully-implemented, state-level programs and policies.
Additional SEED highlights include:
Policy Briefs & Other Resources
- CSG's Work Matters website, which highlights details about the National Task Force, and an interactive map that links to bills and other appropriate state mentions in the Work Matters report
- Kentucky Work Matters Task Force Recommendations Report
- CSG's Kentucky Work Matters Task Force Final Report and Lessons Learned
- NCSL's Disability Employment Database, which provides current information on legislative efforts in the states and territories targeting disability employment issues and related disability issues, as well as a webinar and a legislative brief highlighting what state policymakers need to know about disability employment.
- NGA's Issue Brief, “States Expand Employment and Training Opportunities for People with Disabilities Issue”
- WIG's Companion Toolkit, "State Strategies to Assist Employees with Mental Health and Substance Use Issues Stay At Work/Return To Work"
- WIG Employability of People with Disabilities Podcast
- WIG Career Planning and Credentialing for People with Disabilities Podcast
- NGA States as Model Employers of People with Disabilities Webinar
- WIG Employer Perspectives for Improving Employment Outcomes for People with Disabilities Podcast
- NCSL Our American States Podcast: Ride Hailing Services: Wheelchairs and Seniors Waiting at the Curb
- NGA Webinar: The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Employing People with Disabilities
- Work Matters Online Dialogue Series
- Laying The Groundwork For States As Model Employers Online Dialogue, February 1-22, 2018
- Readying A Skilled Workforce Online Dialogue, March 6-16, 2018
- Harnessing Innovation to Advance Workforce Opportunities, April 10-May 4, 2018
- Retaining & Reemploying Ill, Injured & Displaced Workers Online Dialogue, June 18-present, 2018
Blog Posts & Articles
- NCSL Blog, “Lawmakers, Staff Discuss Workforce Development for People with Disabilities”
- NCSL Blog, “States Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Workforce Diversity”
- NGA Economic Opportunity (via Medium), “An Untapped Talent Pool: The Opportunity in Employing People with Disabilities”
- CSG's The Current State, “Hiring Workers with Disabilities Drives Innovation in the Workplace”
- NCSL LegisBrief, “Learning on the Job for People with Disabilities”
- NCSL Blog, “States Aim to Be ‘Model Employer' for Workers with Disabilities”
- NGA Press Release, “States Expand Opportunities for People with Disabilities”
- NCSL Blog, “Kentucky Says Work Matters, Moves to Expand Labor Participation”
States as Model Employers (SAME)
ODEP’s Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) is also involved in efforts to promote policy related to state governments’ own employment practices, specifically “State as Model Employer” (SAME) policies. As part of this project, NCSL also produces legislation scans state legislators can use to understand other states’ experiences, such as the Disability Employment State Statute and Legislation Scan. EARN continues to advance efforts with States as Model Employers of People with Disabilities: A Comprehensive Review of Policies, Practices, and Strategies.
Other EARN resources include:
- A toolkit for state governments to use the celebration of The Americans with Disabilities Act Anniversary (on July 26) as a way to create a state Executive Order or state proclamation. The purpose of an executive order or proclamation is to promote activities fostering states as model employers policy development and implementation.
- A state statute legislative scan reviewing state and municipal government contracting procurement and tax incentive programs for disability owned businesses.
- An infographic demonstrating the impact that states can have on employment for people with disabilities.