National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2016

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Celebrating Disability Over 70 Years of Inclusion

Reflecting the important role disability plays in workforce diversity, this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme is “#InclusionWorks.” Observed each October, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.
NDEAM dates back to 1945, when Congress declared the first week in October “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” Learn more about the origins and evolution of NDEAM and other important events in disability employment history on the US Department of Labor’s interactive timeline.

ODEP offers a range of resources to help organizations plan NDEAM observances, including not only the official poster in English and Spanish, but also sample articles, a press release, proclamation and social media content.

What can YOU do to celebrate NDEAM? There are lots of ways! To get started, see Department of Labor’s 31 Days of NDEAM slideshow or other ideas for employers,educators and youth service professionals, associations and unions, disability related organizations and federal agencies. .

Employment First

A critical priority for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), is to invest in systems change efforts that result in increased community-based, integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities. This priority reflects growing support for a national movement called Employment First, a framework for systems change that is centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.

Under this approach, publicly-financed systems are urged to align policies, service delivery practices, and reimbursement structures to commit to integrated employment as the priority option with respect to the use of publicly-financed day and employment services for youth and adults with significant disabilities. ODEP defines integrated employment as work paid directly by employers at the greater of minimum or prevailing wages with commensurate benefits, occurring in a typical work setting where the employee with a disability interacts or has the opportunity to interact continuously with co-workers without disabilities, has an opportunity for advancement and job mobility, and is preferably engaged full-time. Many states have formally committed to the Employment Firstframework through official executive proclamation or formal legislative action.

ODEP recognizes that many states desire to align their efforts to support individuals with disabilities toward an Employment Firstapproach, but may not yet possess the capacity, experience or technical resources necessary to lead and facilitate such change. To address this need, ODEP has initiated the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP), a cross-disability, cross-systems change initiative. EFSLMP is providing a platform for multi-disciplinary state teams to focus on implementing theEmployment First approach with fidelity through the alignment of policies, coordination of resources, updating of service delivery models, to facilitate increased integrated employment options for people with the most significant disabilities.

Objectives of the EFSLMP

The objectives of the EFSLMP are to:

  • Provide mentoring, intensive technical assistance (TA) and training from a national pool of subject matter experts and peer mentors to core states as they transform existing policies, service delivery systems, and reimbursement structures to reflect anEmployment First approach;
  • Facilitate virtual training and knowledge translation on effective practices;
  • Facilitate dialogue on shared experiences related to effectuating Employment First policies and practice;
  • Link participating states with current Federal initiatives that are focused on promoting state-level systems-change conducive toEmployment First objectives; and
  • Evaluate the impacts of the investments in state Employment First systems change efforts over time to identify common challenges faced by State governments and validate innovative strategies and effective practices that lead to the successful implementation of Employment First objectives.

EFSLMP — Provision of Intensive Technical Assistance to Core States

Through an application process, states have an opportunity to become an EFSLMP Core State. Core states receive a combination of onsite and virtual technical assistance in the following areas:

  • Strategic Guidance on policy/funding reform, and training on effective practices from a pool of national subject matter experts.
  • Practice & Policy Reform: policy analysis; strategic planning; rate restructuring and resource braiding; service delivery coordination; cross-agency collaboration; and provider contract reform.
  • Provider Transformation: vision/mission statement drafting; staff restructuring/decentralization; financial diversification; executive leadership mentoring; communications/marketing; and performance benchmarking.
  • Capacity Building: training and ongoing coaching supports for front-line direct support professionals and management in the use and successful implementation of evidence-based effective practices.
  • Peer-to-peer mentoring: access to peer experts from other state governments who have demonstrated success in implementing one or more key components of an Employment First is a critical ingredient to the EFSLMP model.

EFSLMP’s National Employment First Community of Practice

In addition to the intensive technical assistance and training being offered to the EFSLMP core states, ODEP has launched anEmployment First Community of Practice (CoP), which is open to state Employment First teams. Thirty-three state teams are currently participating in the EFSLMP Community of Practice, although it is open to all fifty states.

The EFSLMP Community of Practice provides a variety of services to support state Employment First teams, including:

  • Monthly Webinars: ODEP hosts monthly educational presentations on a variety of Employment First topics facilitated by national leaders in the field of systems reform.
  • Access to ePolicyWorks Virtual Workspace: ODEP’s ePolicyWorks provides a free virtual policy workspace for all EFSLMP CoP participating states, along with an array of resources and services to encourage virtual communications and policy work in a safe and user-friendly environment.
  • Access to Technical Assistance Resources and Policy Tools Developed through ODEP’s EFSLMP: A variety of technical assistance resources and policy tools are available to provide additional support at no cost to participating CoP states.

Employment 1st State Ambassadors

As part of its Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP), ODEP launched the Employment 1st State Ambassadors Network. The purpose of the State Ambassadors Network is to highlight exemplary leadership among local and state officials who are pushing high-impact systems-change efforts to promote Employment First principles in their state or local communities. States participating in ODEP’s EFSLMP activities and National Employment First Community of Practice will be able to access State Ambassadors for peer-to-peer mentoring support in the implementation of their Employment First initiatives.

The following individuals have been selected as the Employment 1st State Ambassadors for 2015:

  • Amy Gonzalez, State Director of Employment and Day Services, Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • Tricia Jones-Parkin, Employment Program Administrator, Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities
  • Kristen Helling, Community Advisor/Employment First Lead, Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities
  • Jennifer Joyce, Director of Employment, Transition, and Day Services, New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities
  • David Mitchell, Administrator, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • Laura Nuss, Director, District of Department on Disability Services
  • Steven Reeder, Director, Office of Adult Services Mental Hygiene Administration, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Andrea Zuber, Social Services Director, Minnesota Dakota County Community Services


Information courtesy of the United States Department of Labor: 

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