APSE advances employment and self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities. But Americans with disabilities face a number of barriers to working (both social and structural); as a result, they experience the highest rates of poverty of any other group . Of all working-age people, only 19.8% of those with disabilities are participating in the labor force by seeking employment or working, compared to 68.2% of those without disabilities. Of those participating in the labor force, people with disabilities were twice as likely to be unemployed . APSE is focused on making competitive integrated employment a reality for more people with disabilities by driving the Employment First agenda at both the state and federal levels.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): Perhaps the most critical impact that the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) will have on our country’s workforce systems is that it turns the assumptions that our current system is predicated on upside down; our public systems of support for people with disabilities often presume that people can’t work, and WIOA presumes that they can. Every program must be viewed via a clear and simple lens: whether it supports competitive integrated employment. APSE believes that the full implementation of WIOA is critical to building a robust workforce to facilitate employment for all people with disabilities that will allow them to be self-sufficient and productive, while reducing their reliance on public benefits. The public Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and other workforce development services authorized under WIOA play an important role in supporting many people with the most significant disabilities to find and keep employment. WIOA’s emphasis on partnerships between VR and educational agencies, public developmental disability, and public mental health agencies is also critical to employment success.
Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID): This Committee was mandated by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 to, among other things, increase employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities or other individuals with significant disabilities in competitive integrated employment, and to limit the use of 14(c) certificates under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that allows the payment of subminimum wage to individuals with disabilities. In September 2016, the committee issued its final recommendations for robust capacity building across the public and private sectors, programmatic changes, and improved oversight to more effectively facilitate competitive integrated employment . APSE supports these detailed recommendations as vehicles for removing existing systemic barriers and increase opportunities for employment for people with significant or complex disabilities.
State Employment First Efforts: Under Employment First, employment in the general workforce is the first and preferred outcome in the provision of publicly funded services for all working age citizens with disabilities, regardless of level of disability. As of 2016, 46 states have some sort of Employment First movement and 32 of those have a formal policy action, whether it is an agency directive, executive order, or legislation. APSE will continue to provide advocacy resources and chapter support to state-level advocates so that federal and state funding is rebalanced to support competitive integrated employment as the preferred service outcome. Implementation of Employment First principles must be based on clear public policies and practices that ensure employment of citizens with disabilities within the general workforce is the priority for public funding and service delivery. Invaluable assistance is provided to the states and their Employment First efforts through the Office of Disability Employment Policy within the U.S Department of Labor. These employment systems change efforts and their return on investment to taxpayers results in improved employment outcomes at less cost .
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Olmsted Decision: Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to administer services and programs in a manner that is deemed the “most integrated setting” allowing for “individuals with disabilities to interact with nondisabled persons to the fullest extent…” Through the Olmstead decision, the Supreme Court ruled that unjustified segregation by state and local entities is unlawful and community-based serves are required when certain criteria are met.
Segregation of people with disabilities in publicly funded programs continues at a high rate nationally creating barriers to employment and self-sufficiency, as well as inefficient use of scarce public dollars. APSE urges the Administration to maintain its enforcement focus on the civil rights of people with disabilities, especially as it pertains to the ADA integration mandate and employment service systems.
Access to “real jobs with real wages” is essential if citizens with disabilities are to avoid lives of poverty, dependence, and isolation. And yet, our current public system of supports and services rewards segregation and long-term dependence on government benefits. The full economic inclusion of all Americans, including those with disabilities, means access to income, safe and affordable financial services, opportunities to save and to build assets, and personal control over finances .For many individuals who have relied solely on public benefits for many years, Supported Employment and similar service strategies of intensive assistance and supports are enabling citizens with disabilities to work and therefore earn disposable income for the first time, while reducing their reliance on public benefits.
APSE urges Congress to eliminate barriers to economic self-sufficiency for Americans with disabilities by developing legislation that would decouple poverty and disability by modernizing the fragmented and outdated Social Security disability benefits system in a way that allows individuals to work to their maximum ability while maintaining the necessary safety net.
Medicaid and Long-Term Services and Supports
Medicaid is the nation’s primary health insurance program for people with disabilities and low-income populations. The program currently covers over 10 million non-elderly people with disabilities. Medicaid is a lifeline for most people with significant disabilities who generally do not have access to employer-based or other private coverage, have greater medical needs, and often require assistance with activities of daily living throughout their lifetimes. Through Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS), Americans with disabilities also receive employment supports that enable them to both attain and maintain gainful employment. Medicaid is a jointly funded program with matching state and federal funds, with a high degree of flexibility by states in terms of the services that are covered and how the program operates. Medicaid also provides beneficiaries with access to health care that is comparable to but less costly than what they would receive through employer-sponsored or other private insurance.
APSE urges Congress and the Administration to protect Medicaid LTSS funding for Americans with disabilities in a way that will continue to allow them to live and work in their communities, develop assets and reduce dependence on public benefits– and avoid more costly and segregated nursing homes or institutions.
 US Census Bureau, 2015
 CPSD Issue Brief