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) initiative, ODEP actively collaborates with leading organizations to assist state policymakers in developing policies that improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Working directly with the following state intermediary organizations, SEED equips 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)
Since its inception in 2015, SEED has engaged state legislators, governors' offices and agency leadership from 46 states and DC to enact more than 90 new laws, develop and mobilize more than 250 state legislative and executive-level disability champions, and sign six executive orders, including the establishment of a cabinet-level statewide task force. Enacted legislation has ranged from establishing states as model employers of people with disabilities, to creating a person-centered approach to career development and career readiness, to reducing mobility 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 “Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities” report represents a culmination of intensive deliberation and research by the 60-member task force and 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.
Among the state policy options offered in the Work Matters report stay-at-work/return-to-work (SAW/RTW) was identified as a critical priority area. In a continued effort to support state-level SAW/RTW policy, SEED and CSG launched the “Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work State Policy Toolkit.” This resource, developed with input from a convening of state leaders, subject matter experts, and local government representatives, provides states with policy options, best practices, and implementation strategies to increase retention of employees who become ill or injured while in the workforce.
SEED also recently collaborated with WIG to examine strategies to improve employment outcomes for those with mental health or substance use disorders. The “Companion Toolkit: State Strategies to Assist Employees with Mental Health and Substance Use Issues Stay At Work/Return To Work” serves as a supplement to two previous WIG toolkits, and provides policy examples, legislative strategies, as well as employer perspectives on ways to strengthen employment options for those with mental health and/or substance use disorders.
As part of its mission to ensure policymakers have the resources they need to develop a sustainable and disability-inclusive workforce, SEED and its partners have also produced the following:
Policy Briefs & Other Resources
- CSG's Work Matters website highlights details about the National Task Force and houses an interactive map that links to bills and other relevant 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 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 Employability of People with Disabilities Podcast
- WIG Career Planning and Credentialing for People with Disabilities Podcast
- 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
- 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–September 30, 2018
- Supporting Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship Online Dialogue, October 1–November 9, 2018
Blog Posts & Articles
- CSG Press Release, “CSG Launches Stay-At-Work/Return-to Work Toolkit”
- 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”
*Formal collaborations with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy
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.