Alexa Brill

Welcome to #IWantToWork’s new blog, Employment First Friday! (And, yes, this is not a joke)

We’ve started this blog to promote Employment First in Pennsylvania.

Employment First is a national movement to ensure people with disabilities find and keep jobs in an integrated work settings with the supports they need to succeed.

Each month, we will highlight companies and organizations that are committed to hiring people with disabilities in an integrated environment, and share the encouraging stories of people with disabilities themselves, who are working and succeeding in these positions.

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

Employment First is #IWantToWork’s second major initiative. Our first initiative is focusing on making sure students with disabilities get part-time and summer jobs while they are in high school. Research shows that students with disabilities who get part-time and summer jobs while they’re still in high school are more likely to have competitive, integrated employment positions after they graduate.

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. There are an average 200,000 jobs vacant in Pennsylvania on any given day. 34% of people with disabilities are employed (41% employment gap), median salary of someone with a disability is 33% lower ($10,000 lower), and 30% of people with disabilities live in poverty (17% gap). Not only is there a large pool of people with disabilities wanting to work, but also 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 job, just like everyone else.

A major component of this campaign will be enactment of Employment First legislation to ensure Pennsylvania become a national leader in making sure people with disabilities have opportunities to work and succeed in integrated employment environments.

Governor Wolf’s recent Executive Order enacting Employment First policies was good, but we need to make sure these policies become permanent.

We are working with both Republican and Democrats to have legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania House and Senate to make these policies permanent and ensure there is adequate oversight.

For instance, legislative leaders and the Governor will appoint an Oversight Commission. It will include representatives of specific disability groups. The legislation will have high-level Coordinating Council with leadership from the Governor’s Policy Office.

Importantly, the legislation sets a goal for the Executive Branch of making progress towards 7% of the jobs on the state payroll filled by people with disabilities.

Stay tuned for May’s Employment First Friday. We’ll report on the #IWantToWork 2.0 Employment First Coalition.

By Alexa Brill

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