Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities


Executive Summary

Nearly 20 percent percent of the U.S. population, 56.7 million people, have a disability. Like any American, people with disabilities express a desire to find work to be economically stable and fully included in all aspects of social life. Yet a significant percentage of people with disabilities have difficulties finding, securing and retaining employment. More than a quarter of all working-age people with disabilities are currently experiencing poverty.

Work Matters - cover photo of report."Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities" represents the culmination of a yearlong joint task force effort of state policymakers convened by NCSL and the Council of State Governments (CSG) to address barriers to employment and develop policy solutions to build a thriving workforce that is disability inclusive. Through the work of the task force, state legislators, legislative staff and state executive branch representatives explored the causes of these barriers and devised bipartisan policy options supporting increased employment access and opportunity for people with disabilities.

Issue-area Subcommittees

State policymakers worked through four issue-area subcommittees:

  • Career Readiness and Employability
  • Hiring, Retention and Re-entry
  • Entrepreneurship, Tax Incentives and Procurement
  • Transportation, Technology and Other Employment Supports.

Each subcommittee was tasked with understanding the policy challenges of their issue area and identifying specific policy and program options to address these challenges. Special attention was paid by each subcommittee to exploring best practices and successful efforts currently being carried out in the states. 

Five Policy Categories

This state-led, member-driven task force process resulted in the development of the Work Matters framework, comprising thirteen major policy options organized into five policy categories: 

  • Laying the Groundwork considers policy options that communicate state-level commitment to supporting employment access and opportunity for people with disabilities, including state as 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 targeting increased access and opportunity for new and existing business owners with disabilities through entrepreneurship training and business incentives and supports.

The "Work Matters" framework is meant as a resource for state policymakers who are interested in systematically exploring a range of state policy options that can ensure a strong, inclusive state workforce development system for students and workers with disabilities. 

PDF | Download the Report

Source: This report was developed in cooperation with the State Exchange on Employment & Disability (SEED), a collaborative effort through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy with state intermediary organizations, including the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the Council of State Governments (CSG), and the Women in Government (WIG), to help state legislators effectively address policy barriers that may hinder the employment of people with disabilities. Through these partnerships, the SEED collaborative is dedicated to ensuring that state policymakers have the tools and resources they need to develop and disseminate meaningful policies related to disability-inclusive workforce development.

To request tools, resources, or technical assistance from the SEED collaborative, please contact NCSL’s Josh Cunningham.