October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and Advancing Employment is working to ensure that Georgia’s developmental disability community isn’t forgotten in the fight for competitive, integrated employment and an end to subminimum wages— the legal practice of paying employees with developmental disabilities less than the minimum wage.
Advancing Employment, an organization managed by the Institute on Human Development and Disability (IHDD) at the University of Georgia (UGA), began four years ago as a center to help organizations with best practices in employment supports. This work began with a grant from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD). Advancing Employment is led by Project Director Doug Crandell, a decades-long expert in the field of community-based employment practices. Crandell recently authored the book Twenty- Two Cents an Hour: Disability Rights and the Fight to End Subminimum Wages about employment issues and the disability community.
Advancing Employment provides assistance to employment providers across the state, including Pineland CSB, ASPIRE/Albany CSB, Easterseals Southern Georgia, Woodright Industries/Bartow Board of Health, and The Arc of Southwest Georgia. Advancing Employment’s assistance (known in the field as “technical assistance”) ranges from assisting with access to employment services for people with disabilities to providing teleconferences, workshops, and site- visits to employment providers and more.
The organization has formed a Community of Practice for the employment providers, with monthly meetings together in addition to individual technical assistance. Crandell explains that the goal of this assistance is to help providers “to really do the work around actually helping people get to work and leave sheltered workshops, subminimum wage work, and day programs.”
The organization also provides workshops and resources to organizations who provide services to people with developmental disabilities to help them learn how to create video and image-based resumes which help candidates demonstrate their passion, abilities, and personality.
Additionally, Advancing Employment provides information and resources to the public through several webinar series on wide-ranging employment and disability topics.
The organization’s impact expands beyond technical assistance. Their 2022 Employment Policy Imperatives for Georgians with Disabilities tackle employment through policymaking. Advancing Employment has established these eight policy goals to help Georgians with disabilities obtain competitive, integrated employment with fair wages. Their policy goals include ending subminimum wages, creating tax incentives for businesses to hire people with developmental disabilities, implementing self- employment policies, promoting research, and more.
Advancing Employment sees and celebrates Georgia’s robust and unique economy—from film to agriculture, including green jobs through the production of batteries for electric vehicles.
The organization’s goal is for legislators to recognize the role that people with disabilities play in Georgia’s economy. While there is interest from private companies in employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), it is primarily in the form of service jobs. Advancing Employment encourages deeper conversations and considerations for career paths for people with IDD.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is celebrated annually in October to raise awareness and educate the public about disability employment issues and recognize the many contributions of workers with disabilities. Led by
the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, this awareness month is primarily observed at a grassroots level across the country. Iterations of Disability Employment Awareness Month began as early as 1945 with a week- long observation in the first week of October. In 1988, Congress expanded the declaration to a month-long celebration every October.
Despite its near 80-year history, Disability Employment Awareness Month has not always been packed with action. Last year, Advancing Employment reenergized Disability Employment Awareness Month in Georgia in collaboration with ten groups across the state through education and events with weekly themes. Building on the success of their Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021 initiative, Advancing Employment is moving awareness to action for Disability Employment Awareness Month 2022.
Disability Employment Awareness Month 2022’s weekly themes, which were established to highlight important issues related to disability and employment, are Disability and Economics, Employment Stories, State as Model Employer, and Innovative Policies. Weekly resources from Advancing Employment will include webinars featuring guest speakers, workshops, social media, press releases, and proclamations from public officials. These resources created and curated by the team at Advancing Employment can be sent as an information packet to public officials and policymakers to encourage action.
While maintaining a focus on Georgia, Advancing Employment has established a national footprint through partnership with the national Disability Employment Technical Assistance Center, the National Center on Self-Employment, Business Ownership, and Telecommuting, and supporting California’s SB 639 to end subminimum wage in the state of California.
Advancing Employment is also in the process of putting together and supporting a small group of parents, intended to help other parents and families make decisions about leaving sheltered or segregated employment settings that employ people with developmental disabilities separate from people without developmental disabilities and pay subminimum wages.
Crandell’s message for people with IDD that have not worked or only worked in segregated settings is that “you have a lot to offer, and there are employers who need you.”
For more information about Advancing Employment, visit AdvancingEmployment.com.
Advancing Employment’s 2022 Employment Policy Imperatives for Georgians with Disabilities
- Adopt an approach known as the State as Model Employer that requires Georgia state agencies to set goals for the recruitment, and retention of people with disabilities.
- Phase out the use of subminimum wages in Georgia by 2023.
- Create a state tax-incentive for businesses that hire workers with disabilities that have previously been paid subminimum wages.
- Ensure that the renewals of the NOW and COMP waivers prioritize and incentivize employment.
- Forgo the Order of Selection process at GVRA so that job seekers receiving SSI and/or SSDI have the supports to work and become Georgia taxpayers.
- Create evidence-based expectations and practices in services funded by DBHDD such as Community Access Individual that will contribute to a more robust employment focus.
- Enact the self-employment policy recommendations provided to GVRA in 2018 so that microenterprise is an option for Georgians with disabilities.
- Create an initiative in tandem with the Employment First Council to promote an Economic Coalition for Employment and Disability to guide research and dissemination related to return-on-investment, purchasing power, and economic growth.