On March 19, 2012, Gov. John Kasich signed an Executive Order launching Ohio’s Employment First Initiative. Employment First makes community employment the preferred outcome for individuals with Developmental Disabilities (DD).

Expectations are being set for students with DD, ages 14 and up, who are transitioning from a school setting to a job. This approach will ensure they have access to community employment opportunities which utilize their skills and abilities. For the individual, this will mean the possibility of greater wealth, quality of life and sense of self-worth that comes from having a job. For the community, employers will have access to dependable and qualified employees.

It will take a unified effort to make Employment First a success. Every agency, school, employer, care provider, and family of an individual within Ohio’s developmental disabilities system plays a role. Schools must teach students with disabilities marketable skills that will help them become a productive and successful employee. County boards of developmental disabilities must increase efforts to make sure as many people as possible have the support they need for meaningful and successful community employment. Employers need to set aside negative stereotypes and fears that often limit the hiring of people with disabilities. The focus should always be on a person’s abilities and potential.

Hiring people with developmental disabilities makes good business sense. According to national data from the American Society of Safety Engineers, people with developmental disabilities have a 48 percent lower turnover rate, 67 percent lower medical costs, and ask for 73 percent less time off from their positions. When given the opportunity, these individuals have a proven record of being reliable, responsible and successful workers who have much to contribute to local businesses and the surrounding community.

We all win when people with disabilities work. I encourage you to support Richland County’s efforts to become a leader in the Employment First Initiative in Ohio.

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