Written on: August 3rd, 2012 in Effective & Efficient Government
I am now serving as chair of the National Governors Association having been named by my colleagues at our summer meeting in July. Since getting Delawareans back to work has been job number one, it should come as no surprise that employment is at the heart of my initiative.
A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. Specifically, it will focus on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities, including veterans that return wounded, and the role both state government and business can play in facilitating and advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.
About nine years ago, I visited what was then MBNA, now Bank of America, at a facility in Newark. There, the company employs about 300 people with disabilities responsible for a variety of tasks including making promotional materials. At that time, I met a young man, about 25 years old, who was making t–shirts. I asked him what he did before he got that job and he told me he sat at home for six years watching TV with his parents. A light bulb went off in my head.
This job not only offered him a paycheck, but significantly improved his quality of life. He had a greater purpose, the ability to be part of a team and to be part of something bigger than himself. And for his family – this job meant he had some place to go, something meaningful to do and support outside his family network. In turn, their quality of life improved as well.
He is one of many people with disabilities I’ve had the fortune to meet over the years. While they each have a unique story to tell, they have a common desire: to be included – to be afforded the same opportunities as others.
Coming off the heels of the NGA meeting, I returned to Delaware and had the opportunity to announce my initiative locally. What better backdrop than a bill signing aligned with what my chair’s initiative hopes to accomplish?
The Employment First Act aims to further help open the door for people with disabilities to work side–by–side with other employees.
Historically, people with disabilities have had fewer choices in what they did during the day or where they lived, and had therefore been more dependent on state benefits. The Employment First Act (HB 319) encourages state policies to give people with disabilities more choice and more independence.
Advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is the right thing to do, the smart thing for government to do and it makes good business sense.
It doesn’t matter whether someone was born with additional challenges to face or – in the case of our wounded veterans, for example – acquired them later in life. There are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers. What matters is what they have to offer and the tremendous impact this will have on their overall well–being and on the bottom line of the businesses that employ them.
If you would like to learn more about my initiative, go to www.NGA.org.