Congratulations to all Illinois advocates who have been working on the statewide Employment First Legislation. On Wednesday, May 16, in a great victory for people with disability, HB Bill 2591, Employment First for Persons with Disabilities, passed through the Illinois General Assembly. The bill, sponsored by Representative Golar, declares Illinois an Employment First State and establishes competitive employment in integrated settings as the first option for persons with disabilities in Illinois of working age.
Kenny Borst of DAWWN speaking at a jobs rally at the Thompson Center Plaza
The next step is for Governor Quinn to sign the legislation. All indications are that he supports the legislation and will sign it quickly. After the bill passed the General Assembly, the Governor’s Office released this statement, "Our Illinois is a state where every person has the opportunity to chase their dreams and reach their full potential . . . as I said in my State of the State address, I'm committed to making Illinois the nation's leading employer of people with disabilities.”
Employment First has been a significant policy objective for Disabled Americans Want Work Now, Access Living’s Community Organizing Employment Group. DAWWN has three members who are a part of the Task Force on Employment and Economic Opportunities for People with Disabilities. Governor Quinn appointed the members to the Task Force, which has played a role in building support and addressing concerns around Employment First. Disability groups around the country are using the Employment First Model as a resource to end sheltered workshops and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
Below is some information about Employment First put together by the Arc of Illinois.
Employment First Info
WHAT THE BILL DOES: Declares Illinois an Employment First State consistent with Gov. Quinn's 2013 State of the State Address and aligns Illinois with over 30 other States that have embraced Employment First as statewide policy
Establishes competitive employment in integrated settings as the first option for persons with disabilities in Illinois of working age
Requires State agencies to coordinate their efforts and collaborate to ensure that employment first is fully implemented for persons with disabilities
Requires State agencies to share data and information across systems to track progress toward full implementation of employment first
Makes the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities (EEOPWD) Task Force responsible for establishing measurable goals and objectives for the State of Illinois and monitoring progress to ensure implementation of Employment First in Illinois (The EEOPWD Task Force was established under the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force Act, Public Act 96-368, effective 8-13-09, 20 ILCS 4095.)
Requires all State agencies to fully cooperate with the EEOPWD Task Force and to provide data and information to the EEOPWD Task Force; and requires the EEOPWD Task Force to include a progress report as part of its annual report. The EEOPWD Task Force includes advocates, persons with disabilities, business community members, disability services providers, representatives of State agencies and other stakeholders.
WHY THE BILL IS NEEDED: Times are Changing: Disability is no longer an insurmountable barrier to employment due to innovative practices and changes in technology Census data shows that the employment rate for persons with disabilities in Illinois is at least 50% lower than the rate of employment for all Illinois adults of working age and even lower than that for individuals with developmental disabilities. Competitive work in integrated settings for persons with disabilities fosters self-sufficiency, independent living, higher self-esteem and integration into the community at-large Illinois communities and businesses benefit from increased diversity in the workforce, ability to market to the disability community as a source of commerce, and the efficiencies of tasks adapted specifically for a person with disabilities Opportunities for competitive employment in integrated settings as the first choice for persons with disabilities will raise expectations for our residents with disabilities who are entering or have reached working age.