Report Shows Improvement in Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Thursday, October 13, 2016 | 11:51am

NASHVILLE – Engaging hundreds of employers statewide about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities is one of several successes outlined in the third-year report to Gov. Bill Haslam from the Employment First Task Force. 

Clancey Hopper, a tour guide who was featured in the report, presented it to Gov. Haslam Thursday at her place of employment, the Grand Ole Opry.

“I’m proud that Tennessee businesses, from iconic names like the Opry to small start-ups, are embracing people with disabilities as valued members of their teams,” Haslam said.  The progress being made through the public-private partnership of the Employment First Task Force is removing barriers to employment and will ensure we are engaging resources effectively to provide meaningful results to people with disabilities.”

“As Governor Haslam witnessed first-hand this morning, Clancey has become a very important part of our Opry team and excels in her role of sharing the Opry story with guests from around the world,” said Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher. “Her career here exemplifies successes across the state for Tennesseans with similar circumstances and employers benefitting from their contribution to the workforce.”

Created in 2013 through Executive Order No. 28, the Employment First Task Force is charged with eliminating barriers, streamlining services and increasing integrated and competitive employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, substance abuse disorders and other disabilities.

This year’s Expect Employment report focuses on the results of three years of collaboration among state agencies and partner groups.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Educating hundreds of employers statewide about the business case for hiring people with disabilities, which led to several new partnerships between state programs and employers;
  • Creating a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the coordination of transition services from school to post-secondary education or vocational training;
  • Submitting the Combined State Plan, a requirement for the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  The plan emphasizes the key role people with disabilities play in the workforce;
  • Developing the Employment and Community First CHOICES program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and
  • Expanding Project SEARCH sites in Tennessee.

The report also highlights some of the individual employment success stories of people with disabilities. 

“The work we are doing is moving the needle in the right direction,” Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Debra K. Payne said. “It’s important we continue to do all we can to promote the contributions people with disabilities are making to businesses all over Tennessee and the assets they can bring to the job.”

The task force, which is co-chaired by DIDD and the Department of Human Services, meets quarterly.  Representatives from the Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Labor and Workforce Development, and Education as well as TennCare, the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and several disability advocacy groups are also members of the task force.

Read the full report at:{filedir_46}2016_Expect_Employment_Report.pdf

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  Join the conversation at: