The [AT] Connects Blog

Governors Working to Enable People with Disabilities to Get Jobs

Posted By Anne Long | May 20, 2014
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Governors Jack Markell (DE), Scott Walker (WI), Terry Brandstad (IA), Dennis Daugaard (SD), Gary Herbert (UT), Phil Bryant (MS) and Others Working to Enable People with Disabilities to Get Jobs

Bethesda, MD. Governors around the country are expanding their efforts to enable people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. More than one in five Americans have a disability.  Currently 70% of working age (18-64) Americans with disabilities are outside of the work force and more than nine million working of them are living on government benefits. Polls show that the majority want to work. Millions nationally have been trapped in poverty and isolation for decades. 

The wave of progress was initiated by Gov. Jack Markell when he recently served as chair of the National Governor's Association (NGA). During his NGA term he created "A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities," a blueprint that identified best practices and outlined steps that can be put in place by businesses and states to increase employment of people with disabilities. Gov. Markell is continuing this powerful work in his own state and around the country to enable people with disabilities to get jobs and achieve the American dream. This bipartisan initiative demonstrates coordination and collaboration across party lines. Indeed, important work is also being done by other Governors, including: 

  • In Utah Governor Herbert recently convened Utah's 2014 annual Economic Summit. In furthering Governor Markell's "A Better Bottom line," Utah's theme for the summit: "Executing the Fundamentals of Economic Development for a Better Bottom Line." The Economic Summit allowed businesses and decision-makers the opportunity to learn the added value of employing people with disabilities. Governors Herbert is enlightening businesses on how to create a better bottom line by utilizing the talents of people with disabilities. Indeed, Herbert's own State Budget Director, Kristen Cox, is blind. Richard Marriott, a major philanthropist and business leader who is also enabling people with disabilities to get jobs and succeed, joined Gov. Herbert.
  • Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) quickly improved policies and practices and made it a key point in his State of the State address. He has expanded to 20 Project SEARCH sites in his state, which will help young people with disabilities go straight into jobs instead of a life of dependency. Project SEARCH is already in 43 states and is getting outstanding results for employers, people with disabilities and taxpayers alike.
  • His specific plan has become a role model for expansion of opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Gov. Dennis Daugaard (SD) did the same in his State of the State address and has created a very specific plan to move ahead. Both of Gov. Daugaard's parents are deaf; he has a special understanding of these issues.
  • Iowa's Governor Terry Brandstad has been working with Sen. Tom Harkin on solutions. He hosted a statewide summit on jobs for people with disabilities and is working systematically to make progress possible.
  • Governor Rick Scott (FL) recommended and the Florida Legislature approved $500,000 this year to fund job internships and Supported Employment for people with developmental disabilities. This is in addition to programs that provide job coaches to more than 3,000 people with developmental disabilities.
  • Governor Jerry Brown's California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) is sharing best practices that were initiated through membership on the CSAVR National Employment Team (NET) — which works with employers to meet their business needs in the hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities. The DOR is engaged in many promising practices that have positively impacted the employment of people with disabilities, including new partnerships with Lowe's and Safeway.
  • Governor Pat Quinn (IL) started "employment first policies."
  • Governor Nathan Deal (GA) committed to focus on employment for PwDs at a rally with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Much can be learned from the approach to these issues in Delaware where Governor Markell and Delaware's Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services Rita Landgraf have focused like laser beams on finding win-win solutions for employers and potential employees with disabilities. They started with a major summit, where they brought together top business leaders, advocates from the disability community, foundations and other leaders to brainstorm and implement solutions. They understood from day one that real change will take strong public-private partnerships driven by meeting the needs of employers for successful and reliable talent. 

Delaware is also utilizing options available through the Medicaid program to expand community resources and services to create Pathways to Employment.  The focus is on supporting individuals age 14 to 25 to assist individuals to explore and plan career paths.  Pathways will include services such as on the job supports. Transportation, personal care, orientation and mobility, assistive technology and other services are all important to enhance employment for both the individual and employer.

The Health Care Association made up of Delaware's hospitals has signed on to the Governor's initiative and is developing internships, expanding Project SEARCH and building recruitment from these efforts into employment. 

The University of Delaware, in collaboration with the State of Delaware, conducted a comprehensive survey of state employees to determine the needs of the State, as an employer, with respect to evaluating the attitudes of and hiring practices toward state employees with disabilities.  The two key areas that were identified as a need in response to this survey were: a. HR training initiatives related to disability awareness and, b. refinement of state hiring practices/systems for recruiting qualified applicants with disabilities.  Both of these areas are discussed in further detail below as the State of Delaware continues to make progress in the employment of persons with disabilities.

State of Delaware Hiring Practices - Selective Placement:
The State Office of Management and Budget in collaboration with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division for the Visually Impaired in Delaware has diligently worked to ensure that the Selective Placement program is one practical hiring option for individuals with disabilities who seek employment in state government.  Selective Placement is a mechanism by which a qualified individual with a disability can apply, be screened, and matched for a state job with an expedited hiring process in place for the hiring managers within the State of Delaware.  Though the Selective Placement program has been in place for many years, it was Governor's Markell's initiative of employing people with disabilities that heightened awareness in our state government workforce to the aptitude and abilities that people with disabilities bring to the workplace.  Beginning in 2013 the State of Delaware began to re-examine the selective placement process to determine if it was designed to maximize employment outcomes for persons with disabilities as it had been determined to be underutilized in the past.
In addition, the State Non Profit organizations, who work closely with DVR and DVI received training on the Selective Placement Program in order to assist in qualifying eligible applicants.

  • For better understanding and to support the Selective Placement Program, OMB developed a training video on their website entitled "Untapped Talent Ready to Work". The training is for viewing for anyone who has access to a computer and a web browser. The video gives an overview of how misrepresented people with disabilities are in today's workforce and the accomplishments gained from utilizing this untapped and underutilized resource.
  • OMB has also developed a user friendly webpage which provides information about Selective Placement for Job Seekers including how to become certified, meeting the requirements, the applications process and who to contact for questions. The site also provides the user with links that navigate directly to the online application including instructions.

HR Training Initiatives: 
The State of Delaware is in the process of developing and piloting an online class that will be available to all State employees, which will also be required for all hiring managers as a prerequisite for additional classroom training. The class topics shall include:

1.     Message from the Governor.

2.     Statistics and studies about people with disabilities in the workplace.

3.     A snapshot of the ADA with a multiple-choice activity and interactive timeline.

4.     Information about hidden disabilities.

5.     Information about interacting respectfully with employees who have disabilities.

6.     Resources that participants can print out or link to online.

7.     The State of Delaware plans to pilot the online training in next month and then the classroom training in late July or August, 2014.

Gov. Markell launched a partnership in Delaware that illustrates the potential for putting more people with disabilities to work.  The state helped bring together the IT firm CAI and an international organization called Specialisterne, which is dedicated to employment of individuals with autism. CAI, a company that employs thousands of people across the country, is committed to hiring people who have Autism for more than 3% of its workforce by 2015, recognizing that these individuals are especially qualified for technology roles like software testing, data quality assurance, programming, data mining and data entry. Markell has advanced the Specialisterne model within his administration and several departments have hired or are actively recruiting through Specialisterne.  

Governor Markell's initiative created a major spark in Delaware's Department of Labor with an increase of 8.6 % of individuals with disabilities becoming actively employed from 2011 to 2013.  Delaware has seen an increase in the number of employers engaged and in the number of individuals with disabilities actively seeking employment. 

There is an important place for government benefits as a safety net for those who cannot work.  But, employment achieves what benefits never can:  self-respect, dignity and a real chance to achieve the American dream.  Governors around the country are starting to understand that we cannot afford to have talented Americans sit at home when they want to help make America stronger.  As a nation we need people with disabilities in the competitive workforce at fair, competitive wages. Every American who can work should be encouraged to do so.

Where the Federal Government may lack consensus, many Governors throughout the country are working to implement policy that will benefit the economy and persons with disabilities. Their efforts should be lauded throughout the country, and the success that follows should provide example to businesses and policy-makers that "A Better Bottom Line" is attainable through fiscal and social responsibility. 

Free Webinar: FDWC News Hour

Posted By Anne Long | May 08, 2014

Logo for FDWC

This FDWC News Hour webinar describes an effective, no frills practice so that all federal employees can perform at the highest of standards. Providing reasonable accommodations combines effective written procedures for making and processing requests with a proactive and agile framework. Federal employees with disabilities are routinely informed of their rights to receive accommodations, and have the ability to learn about, select, accept, or reject accommodations to meet their unique needs. Presenters include speakers from NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). Registration is open to individuals with a federal government issued email address.


Click here for more information and to register.

Emergency Preparedness Webinar Series Session

Posted By Anne Long | May 06, 2014

The Great Lakes ADA Center is pleased to announce that the next session in the Emergency Preparedness Webinar Series is scheduled for May 8, 2014.   This series is brought to you through a collaboration between the Great Lakes ADA Center and the Pacific ADA Center, members of the ADA National Network. 

Topic:  Nontraditional Emergency Shelters and People with Disabilities 


 May 8, 2014


2:00 pm - 3:30 pm ET (calculate the start time based on your time zone) 


Disasters can be unpredictable in scope, scale and size. In most cases, traditional shelters will meet an incident’s needs. However, in some disasters, there may be a need to establish non-traditional shelters to meet 1) disaster survivors’ immediate needs or 2) the need to locate residents closer to their community during the recovery phase. Non-traditional shelters may include soft sided structures in open areas as well as mega-shelter sites. Each presents a unique set of circumstances which require specific planning in order to meet the needs of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. This webinar will identify specific planning considerations relative to nontraditional sheltering in order to adequately meet the needs of the whole community.

Learning Objectives :

  • Identify functional needs support services (FNSS) planning considerations for a nontraditional shelter response
  • Identify specific issues that will need to be discussed, in advance, with partners and vendors to ensure accessibility and accommodation for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs
  • Identify FNSS related considerations when conducting long term nontraditional shelter operations 

Presenter :

Kari Tatro - Executive Vice President of Emergency Management Operations, BCFS HHS 

Ms. Tatro is the Executive Vice President of Emergency Management Operations for BCFS HHS, an international system of nonprofit corporations. Ms. Tatro manages a comprehensive emergency management program for all hazards planning, preparedness, response and recovery operations, with specific emphasis on Emergency Support Functions 6 and 8, including mass care, medical needs operations, and functional needs support services. She has functioned as command staff for multiple catastrophic incident responses including Hurricanes Dolly, Gustav and Ike, served as the executive manager and subject matter expert responsible for developing the FEMA document and curriculum on integrating Functional Need Support Services (FNSS) into general population sheltering, published in 2010. Ms. Tatro started her career as a wild land fire fighter for the United States Forest Service before moving into a position working for the State of Texas coordinating emergency management activities for 16 counties. 

Cost:   Free 

Registration:  On-line at 

This session will be delivered via the Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing System.  A telephone option is also available.   The session will be close captioned via the Webinar Platform 

Questions regarding the content of this session should be directed to Lewis Kraus at deputy@ 

Questions regarding registration and/or the webinar platform should be directed to or by phone at 877-232-1990 (V/TTY)

AT & Employment Series
:  This five part series presented by Ron Hager, National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN), and Jim Sheldon, NLS, will offer 75 minute webinars on a host of AT and Employment related topics,  RESNA CEUs will be available for this series for a $16 fee.

Webinar One: Wednesday, June 25, 2014, Obtaining or Retaining Medicaid While Working:  The Section 1619(b) and Medicaid Buy-In for Working People Programs
Webinar Two: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
, Funding Work-Related Assistive Technology for the Transition-Aged Special Education Student
Webinar Three: Wednesday, September 17, 2014, State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies:  Using VR Agency to Fund Assistive Technology to Support a Work Goal
Webinar Four: Wednesday, October 22, 2014, SSI’s Plan for Achieving Self Support:  Using the PASS to Fund Assistive Technology to Support a Work Goal
Webinar Five: Wednesday, November 19, 2014, A Review of Lesser Known Funding Sources and Funding Strategies for Work-Related Assistive Technology

AT & Education Series:  This two part series presented by Janice Carson, Idaho Statewide AT Program, Ron Hager, NDRN, Diane Golden ATAP, and additional statewide AT programs will offer two 60 minute webinars on assessments, AT, and education.
Webinar One: Monday, August 4, 2014, A Historical Background of Scholastic Assessments and the use of Assistive Technology in the United States
Webinar Two: Monday 18, 2014, AT Solutions and Supports to Accommodate Access to Assessments
Note: ALL webinars will start at 3p.m. Eastern Time.  In addition, the RESNA Catalyst Project will provide captioning.  Look for registration details in the coming months.

Closing the Employment Gap:

Posted By Anne Long | May 02, 2014

Closing the Employment Gap:  Presentations from the 2014 State of the Science Conference

This State-of-the-Science conference, held April 8-9 in Bethesda, MD, showcased research from three National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)-funded employment Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTCs). A common theme underlying these RRTCs is a commitment to conducting research that enhances the scientific evidence to reduce the employment gap between people with and without disabilities. […]