Well, apparently they do! When the Health and Human Services Commission issued a notice for people with disabilities interested in serving on an Employment First Task Force, over 100 applications came in – an impressive response by agency standards. In fact, the Employment First Task Force is the result of legislation initiated by advocacy groups frustrated with systems issues that create barriers to employment. The legislation mandated that one-third of the committee membership be people with disabilities – a first for a statewide agency advisory committee.
The Task Force has their work cut out for them. Employment supports that result in a real job in the community are not easy to find, especially for persons with the most significant disabilities. Although evidence-based practices such as supported or customized employment, self-employment and benefits planning have been around for over three decades – the policy, procedures and expertise to fund and implement these services in Texas seem elusive. The persistence of low-expectations for people with disabilities to participate in the workforce is perhaps even more debilitating. While that will require a long-term commitment to change, it starts with what our youth learn in schools and what we see in the community. The Task Force is directed to study and make recommendations – but it will be up to all of us on the front-line to make employment a reality for our family and friends with disabilities.
Norine Jaloway Gill, MSSW writes curriculum and facilitates UNTWISE training. Promoting supported employment in Texas since her first project in 1989, Norine also provides technical assistance in person-centered planning, self-determination and advocacy.