Michigan’s Centers for Independent Living

Position Statement:
Employment Policy for People with Disabilities

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Summary:

Michigan’s economy and communities thrive when people with disabilities are employed. We encourage policy-makers to support policies that promote employment for people with disabilities in competitive, integrated settings so that our citizens with disabilities achieve economic self-sufficiency and reduce dependency on benefits.

Issues:

  • Seventy percent (70%) of working age individuals with disabilities have expressed the desire to find employment, yet by all measures persons with disabilities are under-employed. 500,000 working age Michigan citizens with disabilities are not working, when 43% have a college education or degree (ACS-Cornell US Census 2014).
  • Businesses need talent. Barriers exist in multiple areas that impede one’s full participation in the workplace. Examples are:
    • Workplace accommodations are needed and most are inexpensive.
    • There is a shortage of in-home personal assistance providers to support daily living.
    • Businesses want a diverse talent pool, yet need subject-matter experts to assist them to hire people with disabilities. There are a number of service providers, including Centers for Independent Living, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and Bureau of Services to Blind Persons, that are willing and able to provide this assistance.
  • Employers need connections to their peer business leaders as well as disability awareness training to overcome their fears and stereotypes of qualified workers with disabilities.
  • Benefits disincentives: Many people with disabilities are confronted with complex decisions regarding receipt of benefits vs. employment (or a combination of both).
  • The WIOA Unified State Plan for workforce development did not directly address improvements in integrating services to people with disabilities AND skills, including eliminating immediate referrals to Michigan Rehabilitation Services of individuals qualified for job placement.

Recommendations:

  • The Employment First Executive Order (EO 2015-16) has turned into action with state level workgroups collaborating to increase Competitive, Integrated Employment (CIE) for people with disabilities in Michigan. State Government and the legislature should continue to support this effort and any Employment First policies stemming from this work.
  • Michigan should pass legislation to eliminate paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities.
  • State Government should continue efforts to enhance its own workplace culture and include people with disabilities in its own talent pool.

Closing:

Michigan will be at its best with persons with disabilities employed and contributing to their local economies. Policies and appropriately allocated resources are needed to move closer to this goal.