On December 11, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the Employment First legislation long supported by disability advocates. The bill now moves to the Pennsylvania Senate as Senate Bill 21. The bill would lock in and enhance the policies set up in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Employment First executive order.
Why is this important?
Work provides dignity and independence. #IWantToWork is a self-advocacy campaign led by young people with disabilities determined to speak their minds and take their place as employed, productive members of society. On their website, they explain why the legislation matters:
“Pennsylvania has an opportunity to move from rhetoric to action by joining 22 other states in adopting Employment First legislation and implementing policies leading to more hiring of people with disabilities and providing qualified, motivated workers for Pennsylvania businesses. By supporting Employment First legislation … we can make equal employment a reality for all Pennsylvanians with disabilities who are ready and want to work.”
What is Employment First?
The federal government’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (under the Department of Labor) says Employment First is “centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.”
The Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) says “Employment First means that employment in the general workforce should be the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly funded systems. Simply put, Employment First means real jobs, real wages.”
Check the current status of Senate Bill 21.