Gov. Fallin: “We’ve had a focus on trying to help people get jobs.”
Washington, D.C., March 15 – As the economy expands, for the first time in decades people with disabilities are gaining jobs, success and independence. According to new data, 11,000 more people with disabilities in Oklahoma became employed. People with disabilities have previously been left out of periods of economic growth, today’s workforce system is better aligned to enable people with disabilities to succeed, just like anyone else.
Last month, America’s governors gathered in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting to talk about these and other key issues. During the Winter Meeting, Governor Fallin took questions about jobs for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. When asked, Governor Fallin said: “We’ve had a focus on trying to help people get jobs and work with our companies in the state of Oklahoma to emphasize how important it is to help people that have disabilities” She went on to add “[people with disabilities] want to find work and how important it is that they can be independent on their own, if they have the right skill sets and the opportunity to find a job and to be successful.”
According to RespectAbility, a national organization that fights stigma and advances opportunity for people with disabilities, Oklahoma ranks 25th on jobs for people with disabilities. In total, there are 334,056 working-age people with disabilities living in that state and 123,568 of them have jobs. With an 37 percent employment rate for it’s people with disabilities, Oklahoma now ranks 25th in the country as a place for people with disabilities to be employed.
Governors have a critical role to play as the economy grows and state advance opportunities for citizens of all disabilities. Former Governor Jack Markell of Delaware is a model of what a state chief executive can accomplish by making jobs for people with disabilities a key priority. As Governor, Markell chaired national initiatives with both the National Governors Association (NGA) and later the Council on State Governments (CSG). Both the Better Bottom Line Initiative of the NGA and CSG’s Work Matters Report focused on fighting stigmas, supporting strong public policies and using best practices at the state level.
A key finding in both reports was that people should look to major companies that have made a commitment to employing people with disabilities to see what is possible. Nationally, big name businesses have been at the forefront of driving success and inclusion. Companies including JP Morgan Chase, Pepsi, UPS, SAP, EY, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens have seen that people with disabilities are successful employees who improve businesses’ bottom lines. Indeed, many people with disabilities also have spectacular abilities.
RespectAbility, like most governors and employers, emphasizes the critical link between education attainment and workforce development. “Employment rates only tell part of the story,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, Policy and Practices Director at RespectAbility, “Educational attainment is critical to the success of youth with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical education and skill training.” Oklahoma had an overall high school graduation rate of 81.6 percent in 2016, but only 74.4 percent of the students with disabilities graduated. That puts Oklahoma students with disabilities behind other minority students who graduate high school at higher rates.
Nationally, 343,483 Americans with disabilities entered the competitive workforce last year. “Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” Mizrahi added. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”
For more information on state initiatives: http://drivedisabilityemployment.org