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Lincoln – A national organization that promotes meaningful employment, fair wages and career advancement for people with disabilities is recognizing the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for efforts in Nebraska to move toward competitive integrated employment, a vision that all people have a right to be employed in the general workforce. The Association of People Supporting Employment (APSE) champions moving individuals with disabilities out of sheltered workshops and into the competitive workplace.
In 2016, Nebraska had 18 service providers who were allowed, by federal law, to pay sub-minimum wages to some. More than 2,100 Nebraskans with disabilities worked for less than their peers without disabilities.
The most recent numbers, from 2018, indicate there are now only nine such service provider employers in the state and only 550 people with disabilities who are working for less than minimum wage.
Additionally, APSE says in its report that 37% of Nebraskans with a cognitive disability – those served by DHHS' Division of Developmental Disabilities (DD) – are currently employed, compared to the national average of just 25%.
“We know providing alternatives to sheltered workshops to transition into a competitive employment setting has wide reaching benefits," said Courtney Miller, DD Director. “Employers receive talented employees and specialized support for job acquisition and retention, communities are impacted by fair wages spent in the local economy, families see a family member in a fully competent role in the workplace and the individuals we serve gain not only employment, income and benefits, but the dignity that arises from gainful employment."
Nebraska is also significantly ahead of the national average for employment for people with any disability, at 48%, compared to the national average of just 34%.
More than 112,000 Nebraskans with disabilities, ages 18 to 64, are employed.
Individuals with intellectual and or developmental disabilities in the workforce in Nebraska receive coordinated employment services through Vocational Rehabilitation, a partnership between Nebraska VR within the Nebraska Department of Education, Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and DHHS. The partnership works toward competitive integrated employment that includes pay at or above minimum wage that is not less than what others without a disability are receiving for the same type of job at a location where the employee interacts with other employees without disabilities in comparable positions and has opportunities for advancement, when appropriate.
The partnership also provides career counseling, employment information and referrals to individuals with disabilities who want to work.
Preparing 18 to 21 year old students, through the transition program, to learn about and to prepare for competitive integrated employment, a low statewide unemployment rate, which creates entry level job openings, participant, guardian and provider education and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act are all contributing factors, as Nebraskans with disabilities are moving toward more and better work.
“Nebraska has talented people who want to work, regardless of disability," said Miller. “We are working to make sure they are afforded the opportunity to be paid competitively for those talents."
The APSE report can be found here.