Tennessee Report Highlights Improvements Made to Increase Employment for People with Disabilities

Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) released the Expect Employment Report highlighting improvements in the employment rate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, increased partnerships with employers, and the expansion of state government internships for people with disabilities.  The report comes from the Employment First Task Force which was created in 2013 through Executive Order No. 28, and is charged with eliminating barriers, streamlining services and increasing integrated and competitive employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, substance abuse disorders and other disabilities. 

According to a recent news release, the report was presented to Governor Bill Haslam and he had these words to say “Whether it’s in employment or education, I’ve been committed to the philosophy that ‘All Means All’,” Haslam said.  “I’ve been able to witness firsthand over my time in office how people with disabilities can contribute to their employers and communities, and I’m proud of how we’ve been able to grow these opportunities for Tennesseans with disabilities.”

“The work of the Employment First Task Force has led to tangible results for many people with disabilities,” DIDD Commissioner Debra K. Payne said.  “We know that more people with disabilities want to contribute to the workforce, and through the continued efforts of both state agencies and private partners to engage employers and prepare students for future employment, I believe no state is better positioned than Tennessee to lead the way.”

This year’s Expect Employment report focuses on the results of five years of collaboration among state agencies and partner groups.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Working to integrate state data collection efforts to establish a benchmark statewide employment rate for people with disabilities;
  • An increase in the number of Pre-Employment Transition Services used by youth in Tennessee schools, which help prepare them for employment upon graduating high school;
  • Expanding the number of interns with intellectual and developmental disabilities at state agencies, including the Governor’s Office, DIDD, the Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; and
  • Expanding several successful programs for people with disabilities and mental illness and substance use disorders, including Project SEARCH, Transition School to Work Program, and the Individual Placement and Support Program.