Washington, D.C., March 9 — As the economy expands, for the first time in decades people with disabilities are gaining jobs, success and independence. According to new data, 5,130 more people with disabilities in Kansas gained employment. People with disabilities previously have 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.
Recently, America’s governors gathered in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting and talked about these and other key issues during their Winter Meeting. Governor Jeff Colyer of Kansas has instituted Kansas Works, an incentive for competitive employers to encourage them to hire employees with disabilities. Kansas also added a preparation program to their educator license to make sure teachers are able to provide effective interventions when a student is found to have a disability.
According to RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization that fights stigma and advances opportunity for people with disabilities, Kansas now ranks 9th on jobs for people with disabilities. In total, there are 188,671 working-age people with disabilities living in that state and 84,262 of them have jobs. With an 44.7 percent employment rate for its people with disabilities, Kansas now outperforms most of the country.
Governors have a critical role to play as the economy grows and states advance opportunities for citizens of all disabilities. Former Gov. 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, he 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 were 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.”
Kansas had an overall high school graduation rate of 85.7 percent in 2016, but only 77.5 percent of the students with disabilities graduated.
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,” RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “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