Notice: The Minnesota Council on Disability is going through a rebranding process. Some of the material on this page still references our previous name: Minnesota State Council on Disability or MSCOD.
Position Paper: Competitive Employment for Persons with Disabilities
The Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) collaborates, advocates, advises and provides information to expand opportunities, improve the quality of life and empower all persons with disabilities. By statute, MSCOD advises and aids the governor, legislature, state agencies, and the general public on services, programs and legislation pertaining to persons with a disability. MSCOD works closely with constituents to identify issues, craft language, educate policymakers, and pass laws that have a meaningful, positive impact in the disability community. MSCOD strongly believes that employment is crucial for all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to live meaningful and productive lives.
The State Demographers Office estimates that the U.S.economy will not return to the pre-recession high of 2008 until 2013. Future economic growth will be challenging as the baby boomer generation retires, causing large shortages in the local and national job markets. Minnesota can be competitive economically by utilizing the diverse employment pool it already has and ensuring competitive employment for persons with disabilities.
In order to increase the employment of persons with disabilities, MSCOD, along with the Governors Workforce Development Council (GWDC), believes that the state needs to ensure that it is a model employer by creating an accommodations pool to eliminate employment barriers and strengthening public transportation.
The employment rate for people with disabilities of all ages, education levels, and in all regions of the US is significantly below that of the general population. The 2009 Current Population Survey (CPS) reported that the employment rate for people over age 16 was 64.5% nation-wide, but the employment rate of people with disabilities was only 19.2%. Among all education levels, people with disabilities were less than half as likely to be employed as those without a disability. The employment disparity is a local phenomenon as well. In the Midwest West North Central Region, which includesMinnesota, the employment rate of persons with disabilities was only 25.1%, compared to 65.2% for those without a disability.
Over the past 30 years, studies on competitive and supported employment have reported the economic benefits of ensuring the employment for individuals with disabilities. In one such study, “Accommodating the Spectrum of Individual Ability,” the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated that:
In addition to increasing the gross national product, it has been estimated that such earnings increase by handicapped workers would result in some $58 million in additional tax revenues to Federal, State, and local governments. Statistics indicate that funds generated by eliminating handicap discrimination would return more than 3 dollars for every dollar spent.
In order for Minnesota to thrive economically, we must ensure competitive employment for persons with disabilities. To do this, MSCOD recommends the following:
Strengthen the Minnesota State as a Model Employer Initiative
The Minnesota State as a Model Employer (SME) initiative is a partnership with state agencies to increase competitive employment of people with disabilities statewide. The objective of SME is to meet the workforce needs of state agencies and Minnesota businesses by competitively employing people with disabilities. The initiative has made strides in creating internships, augmenting standard hiring procedures, helping candidates align skills with employment opportunities, supporting entrepreneurs with disabilities, and creating a web-based resource for businesses. However, these goals were only targeted to four state agencies out of more than 200. For SME to be truly successful, all agencies should be required to implement the program’s initiatives.
In agreement with the Governor’s Workforce Council, SME would better reach its goal by expanding core supervisor training, establishing hiring goals and ensuring the accessibility of state hiring tools, such as Resumix. Expanding core supervisor training would allow agencies to receive intensive training on employing, retaining and accommodating persons with disabilities beyond the allotted one and a half hours currently in place.
Although the legislature required that all state agencies comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 in 2009, persons with disabilities continue to have problems accessing state hiring tools such as Resumix (or any replacement system). Making Resumix accessible will even the playing field for all applicants. Improvements that need to be made are: 1) allowing end-user feedback on the system and making opportunities to give feedback readily apparent/available, and 2) provide easy access to assistance using phone/TDD/web help lines when using the system.
Finally, by executive order, the federal government has recently committed itself to being a model employer of individuals with disabilities. Minnesota can and should support the federal government’s position by requiring all state agencies to take part in SME.
Resource Accommodations Pool
The State of Minnesota should create a centralized fund for all agencies that would pay for accommodation costs for employees with disabilities. Currently, when a state agency employs a person with a disability, that agency incurs the total cost associated with accommodating the employee. Such costs discourage supervisors from employing persons with disabilities because they either do not have the funds to make the accommodation or they believe the funds could be used elsewhere. Creating a resource accommodations pool would remove the burden of cost placed on state agencies and encourage supervisors to hire persons with disabilities based on qualifications rather than the cost of accommodation. In addition, a resource accommodations pool would support both the State’s goal to be a model employer and the federal government’s model employer initiative.
An integral component to employment is reliable, accessible transportation. As the employment of persons with disabilities increases, the availability of affordable, reliable and accessible transportation will also need to increase, particularly in Greater Minnesota.
Without available and accessible public transit, many people who are aging or have disabilities cannot maintain employment, run errands, enjoy recreational opportunities, or patronize local businesses. This transit shortage negatively affects both the strength of local economies and the quality of life of Minnesotans with disabilities. Expanded employment policies for people with disabilities will not be effective unless people have an accessible, reliable, and affordable way to get to and from work. For more information regarding our position on transportation, please see the position paper “Transportation.”
MSCOD will continue to advocate for and support the employment of people with disabilities. In addition, current laws, such as the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, need to be fully implemented and continually enforced to ensure equal access, opportunity, and protection. The recommendations listed above could be better executed if current legislation was upheld more stringently.
 The CPS defines an employed person as, “are all those who, during the survey reference week (which is generally the week including the 12th day of the month), (a) did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; (c) worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family operated enterprise; or (d) were temporarily absent from their jobs because of illness, vacation, labor dispute, or another reason.
 The CPS uses an algorithm based on responses to six questions to classify a person as being disabled or having a “work disability.” The CPS questions are not designed to capture any particular concept of disability. The CPS covers the civilian, non-institutionalized, working age population.