Currently youth have the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, a standard that allows all children with disabilities to go to school. Unfortunately, after high school, IDEA support ends and there is no standard support system for people with disabilities. Too many fall off the IDEA cliff and end up wasting away in institutions, day centers, sheltered workshops, jails, or on their parents’ couch without a way to contribute their gifts and talents to the broader world. Only a lucky few make it across the pit to pursue further education, internships, and careers.
However, if Georgia becomes an Employment First state and prioritizes competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities, this could be a game changer for its citizens with disabilities. Then, after high school, no longer would folks fall off the IDEA cliff, but instead they would have the supports they need to pursue their dreams – whatever that might be.
Employment First means that employment should be the first and preferred option for all people, regardless of their disability. Under Employment First legislation, employment in the general workforce at or above minimum wage is the first and preferred option for all working age citizens with disabilities. Currently, the Georgia system creates many barriers for individuals with disabilities to work. Although the majority of Georgians with developmental disabilities want to work, only 8% of Georgians with developmental disabilities are currently employed in the community¹. Under an Employment First policy, state agencies will need to re-align their policies and funding to prioritize employment for all working-age Georgians with disabilities.
¹ National Core Indicators 2013-2014. National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services and Human Services Research Institute. www.nationalcoreindicators.org/chartsDownload the Employment First Fact Sheet here.
- Support legislation that will make Georgia an Employment First State