FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 22, 2020) – Gov. Andy Beshear recently signed an executive order that strengthens Kentucky’s commitment to increase meaningful employment of people with disabilities in the general workforce and support them and their families through the Employment First Council.
The executive order assures that competitive and integrated employment in the community is the first and primary option for people with disabilities who desire employment, and that state policies and regulations are in line with that goal.
“I envision a brighter future for all of our citizens, and that includes meaningful job opportunities for Kentuckians with disabilities, regardless of the level of disability,” the Governor said. “By collaborating the efforts of public and private groups in the Employment First Council, we can draw on the strengths of all of our communities and break the cycle of poverty through better paying jobs for all.
“We are committed to righting inequities and breaking down barriers for our citizens with disabilities who desire to have a meaningful career. Too often people with disabilities are relegated to the sidelines in our communities, when they have significant contributions to make to our workforce and society.”
Jacqueline Coleman, the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, said: “We owe it to Kentuckians with disabilities to provide job opportunities that break down barriers and strengthen our families. This executive order is the right step towards building an economy that works for all. Through the Employment First Council, we can continue to develop a workforce in which no one is underestimated or left behind.”
Kentucky’s Employment First Council is a 28-member advisory group comprised of people with disabilities, family members, employers, providers and state agency personnel. The council is administered by the University of Kentucky’s Human Development Institute (HDI) and acts as an advisory group to state government to fulfill the executive order.
Kathy Sheppard-Jones, executive director of HDI, said, “The Governor’s action in issuing this executive order is a significant step forward toward realizing the promise of a truly inclusive workforce in Kentucky, to strengthening our economy, and to improving the quality of life for citizens with disabilities across the commonwealth.”
Statistics show that the workforce participation rate for working-age individuals with disabilities is about one-third of that of people without disabilities. In addition, working-age adults with disabilities live below the poverty line at twice the rate of the general population.
To address these issues, the Employment First Council is working on the following tasks:
- Identify state policies that create disincentives to employment of people with disabilities and develop recommendations to address and eliminate those disincentives.
- Develop training and resources for families, self-advocates, public and private providers, and employers on the benefits of working in meaningful and productive jobs within the general workforce.
- Recommend the implementation of effective practices to increase employment opportunities for workers with a disability to public and private providers of employment assistance and employers.
- Establish measureable goals to assess progress of efforts to increase the employment of workers with a disability within the general workforce.
“This executive order shows our united commitment to Employment First as our first primary option for persons with disabilities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Cora McNabb, executive director of the EWDC Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and a member of the Employment First Council. “We know from experience and studies that with assistance, accommodations and encouragement, many persons with disabilities can work successfully in the community and have a meaningful career.”
For more information about Employment First, please visit https://www.employmentfirstky.org/.