By Grace Austin

Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), has launched an initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, which aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. Specifically, the initiative will focus on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities and the role that both state government and business can play in creating employment opportunities.

“The bottom line is that there are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent, and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers,” Markell said. “More companies are recognizing that creating greater economic opportunity for these workers improves their own bottom line as well. It doesn’t matter whether you were born with additional challenges to face or—in the case of our wounded veterans for example—acquired them later in life. What matters is what you have to offer.”

Successfully achieving this goal will require not only attention to appropriate training, job placement, and work-based support, but also advancing best practices and meaningful engagement of the business community. This includes informing the business community about how productive, loyal, and valuable these individuals can be to both the company’s culture and its bottom line.

A major emphasis of the initiative will be on people who have significant intellectual and developmental disabilities and may require supports like job coaches and personal attendants in order to live and work in the community. Markell plans to convene governors, businesses, disability leaders, and other thought leaders to share ideas and move forward to support this initiative.

“It’s inspiring to see how many leaders from the public and private sectors are committing themselves to this cause and pledging to work together on something that builds both economic and social capital. There are major employers in every state who recognize the value of creating opportunity,” Markell said.

In addition to providing governors and other state policymakers with better policy options to assess the environment in their state and strategies designed to support this population, the initiative will create a blueprint for businesses and states that identifies best practices and outlines steps that can be put in place to increase employment of people with disabilities, heighten awareness, and launch a campaign to help governors put in place these efforts.