In 2012, then Governor Kasich declared Ohio an Employment First State. This meant that the preferred outcome for every working age adult with disabilities is competitive employment. With this change, there were many questions from What defines competitive employment? to Can I do other things besides work? Ten years later, this shift in thinking has shown amazing results!
From a county board perspective, Employment First just meant that we consider people’s strengths and where they could work, instead of worrying about what deters people from seeking employment in their community. Many community members were scared that this meant “employment only” and recreation opportunities would be gone. However, instead of recreation and social opportunities going away, those activities increased because more people have spending money earned through employment.
Changes from the Employment First initiative have been noticeable to more than those who are now employed. For Shelby County in 2012, the county board assisted approximately 15 people with disabilities in gaining competitive employment. Today that number stands at more than 55 people. Our community businesses and their customers also win because individuals are paired with employment based on their strengths instead of their deficits.
While there have been tremendous advances towards getting people with developmental disabilities into the workforce, we can still do more. Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month and sharing information with the public can open more possibilities for people with DD and for employers who are looking to fill open positions.
To learn more, call the Shelby County Board of DD at (937) 497-8155 or visit The Campaign for Disability Employment at www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org.