Public Comment — Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Senate Bill 1226
Public Input Provided in 2013
Public Comment Senate Health and Human Services Committee April 2, 2013 Senate Bill 1226
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) is established by federal law in the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act and is governed by a 27 member board, appointed by the Governor, 60 percent of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. TCDD’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.
The Council adopted Employment First as one of its 2013 public policy recommendations. Employment First, as the name suggests, is a philosophy that says that integrated competitive employment should be the expected outcome for people with developmental and other disabilities who want to work. Establishing competitive employment as a goal is the starting point. We know that achieving those outcomes for individuals will not happen overnight, but it is important to set the goal so that our service delivery systems review existing policies and procedures and adopt strategies that successfully lead in this direction. Only then will people with significant disabilities have opportunities to be integrated into the workforce.
People Want to Work – As a result of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) more people with disabilities have the same goals as their peers without disabilities. Employment is the great equalizer. Through employment, people gain an important point of entry into their community, a sense of being valued, wages and job benefits, friends and social connections. With these tangible and intangible rewards from employment, people secure greater independence and freedom from public support systems. Work means the same for people with and without disabilities. According to National Core Indicators, 47% of Texas respondents reported that they do not have a job in the community but would like one, which is consistent with the average of all NCI states (46%). Eighty- three percent of Texas respondents reported that they do not have integrated employment as a goal in their service plan, which is higher than the average of all NCI states (77%).[i] The current low participation rate of citizens with disabilities in the workforce is unacceptable. Advances in education and community living cannot be fully leveraged or realized when so few people with disabilities actually work in the community.
We Can Do Better – Between 2001 and 2011, Texas has more than doubled the number of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities receiving services from the Department of Aging and Disability Services. However, during that same time period, the number of persons served in integrated employment decreased by half. In 2001, 20% of those receiving services were in an integrated employment setting. In 2011, only 5% of those receiving services were in integrated employment. Some states are now providing integrated employment to 40% of those receiving services.[ii] Texas can do better.
People with disabilities are routinely placed in non-integrated settings instead of community-based employment despite the availability of common accommodations.[iii] SB 1226 sets a policy direction for employment as the first option to be considered for individuals with disabilities receiving public benefits so that the legislature is able to hold agencies accountable for creating a culture of work for people with disabilities. It means that planning teams are going to seriously talk about what people want to do with their days and how to realign policy and process so that integrated competitive employment can become a reality for those wanting to work. Starting with competitive employment as the goal does not mean that employment will be achieved tomorrow – or next week. And if it does not happen, it does not mean that the system has failed, but it does not mean that we are going to stop trying either. Establishing employment as the goal will focus efforts on that goal.
An Employment First statewide policy will result in the inclusion of more persons with developmental disabilities in the workforce. The Texas Legislature has created opportunities for Texas to be attractive to business, drawn, in part, by a workforce educated by our world-class university system. TCDD’s goal is to ensure that those businesses also find an educated, prepared workforce that includes Texans with disabilities.
Adopting an Employment First policy for the state can make an important contribution to raising expectations, improving outcomes and increasing self-sufficiency for people
with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Jessica Ramos Public Policy Director
[i] “NCI State Report: Texas 2009-10.” National Core Indicators. Human Services Research Institute and The National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services. Web. .
[ii] Butterworth, J., Smith, F., A., Hall, A.C., Migliore, A., Winsor, J., Domin, D., Sulewski, J. (2013). StateData: The national report on employment services and outcomes. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Boston, Institute for Community Inclusion.