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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 7, 2020) — On June 29, 2020, Gov. Andy Beshear signed the Employment First Executive Order, stating that “It is the policy of the Commonwealth of Kentucky that competitive integrated employment in the community shall be considered the first and primary option for persons with disabilities of working age who desire to become employed.”

The executive order authorizes the Employment First Council and charges it to “increase meaningful opportunities for competitive integrated employment for citizens with a disability seeking employment, regardless of the level of disability.” The 28-member council is administered by the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute(HDI) and serves as an advisory body to the state government in furtherance of this policy, including the identification of state policies that create disincentives to the employment of people with disabilities.

Kentucky’s employment first policy will create opportunities that have been previously unavailable to many persons with disabilities and will contribute to changing the trajectory of their lives and the next generation of their families. Kathy Sheppard-Jones, executive director of HDI, said, “The governor’s action in issuing this executive order is a significant step forward toward realizing the promise of a truly inclusive workforce in Kentucky, to strengthening our economy, and to improving the quality of life for citizens with disabilities across the Commonwealth.”

The governor’s action is particularly significant, given that, in 2020, the employment rate of Kentuckians with disabilities stands at 29.4% compared to 75.7% for Kentuckians without disabilities. In a news release, Beshear said, “We are committed to right inequities and breaking down barriers for our citizens with disabilities who desire to have a meaningful career. Too often people with disabilities are relegated to the sidelines in our communities when they have significant contributions to make to our workforce and society.”

Agencies and organizations across Kentucky are committed to working together to advance employment first and have memorialized their commitment by signing the Proclamation of Collaboration. Anyone can join this collective effort to address barriers and identify solutions to improve the quality of life and increase economic self-sufficiency for Kentuckians with disabilities.

For more information, visit the Employment First Kentucky website.