In 1990, Congress enacted the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in employment and other aspects of community life. Since then, public policy at all levels has demonstrated growing support for the employment of people with disabilities, as part of a broad societal shift toward promoting these Americans’ independence and full participation in mainstream society.
Today, the employment of people with disabilities is seen not only as a civil rights issue but also as a practical boon for businesses. Employing people with disabilities has been shown to benefit businesses, for example, as a result of lower turnover, increased productivity, and access to a broader pool of skilled workers. For people with disabilities, employment means greater economic self-sufficiency, an opportunity to use their skills, and more active participation in community life.
States are seizing the opportunity to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce through a wide variety of policy approaches—both indirectly, by encouraging their employment in the private sector, and directly, through their own employment practices. Below is a list of strategies, as outlined in Work Matters, that state policymakers can consider when seeking to enhance employment and inclusion for people with disabilities.