South Dakota Task Force Releases Final Report for Employing People with Disabilities

The South Dakota Governor’s Employment Works Task Force, a result of Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Employment Works Initiative, recently released its final report with recommendations for employing South Dakotans with disabilities.

Governor Daugaard announced his Employment Works Initiative in the spring of 2013, and a task force was created to help guide his efforts. The state Department of Human Services (DHS), of which the Division of Developmental Disabilities is a part, recruited members from across the state. The result of the task force’s work is contained within its final report, available at dhs.sd.gov/NewsandAnnouncements/EmploymentWorksTaskForceReport.html.

The Employment Works Task Force brought together a wide spectrum of South Dakotans to help establish strategies for the Governor’s initiative in South Dakota. Business leaders, individuals with disabilities and their family members, legislators, nonprofit stakeholders, providers and state agency representatives composed the group. The report summarizes the observations, ideas and suggestions of the task force into five prevailing recommendations:

  • Find and support businesses to employ people with disabilities.
  • Connect businesses to employees with disabilities.
  • Eliminate disincentives to employment for people with disabilities.
  • Develop flexible systems and promote promising practices.
  • Educate the public, providers, employers and people with disabilities.

Governor Dennis Daugaard’s initiative was inspired by his involvement with the National Governors Association (NGA). Daugaard assisted Governor Jack Markell of Delaware with holding roundtables, forums and two state institutes as a part of the NGA’s initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, to explore ways to increase the employment of people with disabilities. The group specifically examined ways that governors can provide the leadership necessary to make significant advancements in employing people with disabilities in their respective states.

Daugaard told participants at an NGA forum in early 2013 of his experience growing up the son of deaf parents in eastern South Dakota. He described how his parents’ disabilities affected life at home, where he and his siblings grew up using American Sign Language even earlier than spoken words. He was inspired by what his parents taught him about the value of hard work and independence. Governor Daugaard told the NGA he wanted to do more in his own state to develop and maintain employment opportunities for South Dakotans with disabilities, using his unique upbringing to form his leadership.

DHS Secretary Gloria Pearson said, “We feel fortunate as a state department to have a Governor who genuinely cares about disability issues. We are excited to take a leadership role in carrying out Governor Daugaard’s vision for increasing employment opportunities for South Dakotans with disabilities, and we’re ready to get to work.”

Dan Lusk, South Dakota Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, adds, “The Division of Developmental Disabilities joined the State Employment Leadership Network (SELN) and the community of practice to collaborate with other states to assess and find creative ways to address the barriers for increasing employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Many of the activities we identified in our state SELN work plan coincide with recommendations made by Governor Daugaard’s task force so we look forward to implementing the recommendations while meeting the goals we set forth for our state DD system in our work plan. We are committed to working together to improve integrated, competitive employment outcomes for all South Dakotans with disabilities.”