The NCSL Blog


By Saige Drager

The start of 2020 marks not only the dawn of a new decade but also the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Job applicant in wheelchairRegarded as the most sweeping anti-discrimination legislation for people with disabilities, the ADA guarantees equal opportunity in places of public accommodation, state and local services, transportation, telecommunications and employment.

The push to increase employment for people with disabilities accelerated after the 2016 publication of Work Matters, a report detailing policy options for states interested in inclusive workforce development and bolstering disability employment rates.

At least 35 states have ongoing Employment First initiatives, which say that competitive integrated employment is the first and preferred approach for people with disabilities seeking work. The anniversary is likely to spur further legislative action in the coming months as many states reconvene for session. NCSL will continue tracking developments and providing policy assistance on issues related to employment for people with disabilities.

Interested in learning more about disability employment but don’t have time to dive into the 96-page Work Matters report? We understand (but still think it’s a great read!). Now you can browse a condensed version of the five Work Matters policy areas, with additional research and state legislative updates since the report’s release on the NCSL site:

  • Laying the Groundwork considers policy options that communicate state-level commitment to supporting employment access and opportunity for people with disabilities, including state as a model employer, private sector capacity building, disability awareness, and interagency coordination efforts.
  • Preparing for Work considers policy options related to providing education and vocational training opportunities for youth and young adults with disabilities, including inclusive career planning, work-based learning and family engagement.
  • Getting to and Accessing Work Opportunities considers policy options ensuring that physical spaces, services and technologies facilitate equal access to work opportunities, including accessible information and communication technology and employment-related transportation.
  • Staying at Work considers policy options providing employers with tools to retain and advance workers when injury, illness or a change in disability status occurs.
  • Supporting Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship considers policy options that increase access and opportunities for new and existing business owners with disabilities through entrepreneurship training and business incentives and supports.

These pages will continue to be updated as more research and state legislative enactments become available. For the most up-to-date information on activity in the states and around the country, check out our Disability Employment Legislative Database. And stay tuned throughout 2020 for NCSL’s coverage of the 30-year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This piece is part of NCSL’s yearlong celebration of ADA30, and ongoing partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy’s State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED). SEED partners with intermediary organizations like NCSL to ensure that state and local policymakers have the tools and resources they need to develop and disseminate meaningful policies related to disability-inclusive workforce development.

Saige Drager is a research analyst in NCSL’s Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.