Employment first

Continuing our momentum into 2017, #IWantToWork’s Employment First bills will soon be reintroduced. Employment First is a national movement to ensure people with disabilities find and keep jobs in integrated work settings with the supports they need to succeed.

The research is clear. Hiring people with disabilities is beneficial for employers. We are loyal, have low absentee rates and are dedicated to doing the best job we can for our workplace.

Employment First is #IWantToWork’s second major initiative. Our first initiative, House Bill 400, focused on ensuring students with disabilities have access to part-time and summer jobs while they are in high school. Research shows that high school students with disabilities who work part-time and summer jobs are more likely to obtain competitive, integrated employment positions after they graduate. House Bill 400 was passed in 2016, paving the way for our Employment First initiative.

There is one overriding reason for Employment First: People with disabilities deserve the same opportunities for competitive, integrated employment as everyone else!

And from a business standpoint, it is highly beneficial to hire people with disabilities. According to the 2015 Annual Disability Statistics Report, there is an average of 200,000 jobs vacant in Pennsylvania on any given day. Thirty-four percent of people with disabilities are employed (a 41 percent employment gap), median salary of someone with a disability is 33 percent lower (that’s $10,000 lower), and 30 percent of people with disabilities live in poverty (a 17 percent gap). Not only is there a large pool of people with disabilities wanting to work, but it has been repeatedly proven that people with disabilities are extremely reliable and hard workers.

As a person with a disability, my disability motivates me to work hard at my jobs. I want to contribute in a meaningful way, just like everyone else.

A major component of this campaign is the enactment of Employment First legislation to ensure Pennsylvania becomes a national leader in making sure people with disabilities have opportunities to work and succeed in integrated employment environments. This bill aims to permanently establish that competitive, integrated employment is the preferred option for people with disabilities.

#IWantToWork is working with both Republicans and Democrats to have legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania House and Senate to make these policies permanent and ensure there is adequate oversight to ensure success.  Since the co-sponsor memos went out, there are already 27 House members and 14 Senators who have signed on.

Want to stay in touch and be notified about campaign activities and learn about employment for people with disabilities? Follow #IWantToWork on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

By: Alexa Brill

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