Programs relaunched: State aims to hire people with disabilities

Connect 700 allows people with disabilities to demonstrate their skills through an on-thejob trial. The Supported Worker Program allows up […]

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daytonConnect 700 allows people with disabilities to demonstrate their skills through an on-thejob trial. The Supported Worker Program allows up to three people with disabilities to share one of 50 full-time government positions. State agencies that sponsor the positions will integrate employees into existing teams and will provide job coaches as needed.

“That’s progress, but we are not satisfied,” Dayton said. The governor said the state needs to “lead by example” in employing and addressing the under-representation of people with disabilities in state government positions. He made the announcement during National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month. Observed each October, the month marks the contributions of workers with disabilities and highlights the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. Reflecting the significant role disability plays in workforce diversity, this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme was “#InclusionWorks.”

Dayton also admitted that one ongoing challenge to getting more people with disabilities into the workforce is that of addressing the state’s significant home care worker crisis. When asked about the need for services and supports to keep people in the workforce, Dayton said he has hopes that the recently launched negotiations with personal care attendants union would lead to a needed state reimbursement increase.

“State government should reflect all of the people it serves. They should include Minnesotans with disabilities,” said Dayton. “These programs will provide employment opportunities for more of our citizens, and help to create a more inclusive Minnesota.”

Leaders of state agencies and offices that serve people with disabilities praised the renewed efforts and singled out the two state programs for recognition. But they also spoke of the need for adequate supports and services for workers, and for the state to do all it can to have inclusive employment. It was also noted that while the state as a whole is increasing its ranks of workers with disabilities, some state departments lag behind others in hiring.

“We believe that state government should look like all of Minnesota in terms of both its diversity and inclusion,” said Colleen Wieck, executive director of the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. “We know how to support people with disabilities on the job because of technology and accommodations. “A 2005 research study of 600 Minnesota businesses showed that employees with disabilities were rated equal to or higher than employees without disabilities in similar positions in every performance attribute except for work speed. Employee attitude was the biggest driver of overall satisfaction,” she said.

Alan Parns, who worked for many years on employment issues, chaired the Commission of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans when the 2014 executive order was negotiated. He called the two programs “a win-win” and said they would help people find work as well as support Dayton’s commitment to equity.

Darlene Zangara, executive director of the state’s Olmstead Implementation Office, said Minnesota’s push to hire more people with disabilities is “empowering and bold.” One goal of the state’s Olmstead Plan is that people with disabilities can live and work in their communities and not be segregated State to step up – from p. 1 The governor said that the state needs to provide leadership in hiring, for the private sector. “We need to lead by example,” Dayton said. “We can’t expect businesses and nonprofits to be spearheading new efforts if we aren’t leading the way.”

Dayton’s administration has taken a number of steps to focus on state employment for people with disabilities. Some agencies had stopped tracking their hiring and recruiting. Others had affirmative action plans that lacked specific disability employment goals. Several years ago the ranks of workers with disabilities in state government dropped from 10 percent in 1999 to less than 4 percent in 2013.

How all of this translates into private sector employment is likely to take shape over an extended period of time. Minnesota currently has one of the nation’s lowest rates of integrated employment for people with developmental disabilities. One widespread criticism centers on the number of people in sheltered workshops, who earn a pittance.

To find out more about Connect 700 and the Supported Worker Programs visit



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