According to data available in 2016, the percentage of Americans living with a disability – already estimated at 1 in 5 – was expected to double in the next two decades. Recognizing that despite ability and willingness to work, many of them experienced significant barriers to employment, the National Conference of State Legislatures and Council of State Governments joined in creating the National Task Force on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities. As consultants to the task force, we drew on our years of experience with programs such as Ticket to Work.
CEO Barbara Otto served as a technical expert to the task force’s Hiring, Retention & Reentry Subcommittee, which was tasked with identifying how state government policies, programs, funding, and initiatives can increase the number and diversity of employees with disabilities in public- and private-sector workforces. The result of the task force’s yearlong, four-committee project was the report, “Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities,” released in December 2016.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, founded in 1975, seeks to improve quality and effectiveness of state law-making bodies through policy innovation, communication, and sharing of best practices. The Council of State Governments, founded in 1933, is a nonpartisan organization that serves all three branches of state government. In this case, as elsewhere, the two groups worked hand-in-hand both to empower the states as (in Justice Louis Brandeis’ evocative phrase) “laboratories of democracy” that are able to move more nimbly to try new approaches, as well as to ensure they have a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system.