Employment First Works

Employment First is a movement to deliver meaningful employment, fair wages, and career advancement for people with disabilities.

APSE is the only national organization devoted to Employment First. We've advocated for decades on policy, advocacy, and sharing the best practices, tools, and connections to move the needle forward toward inclusive, fair employment for all.

What is Employment First?

Employment First means that employment in the general workforce should be the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities receiving assistance from publicly-funded systems. 

Simply put, Employment First means real jobs for real wages. 

Who Benefits from Employment First?

  • Communities

    Feel the economic force of fair wages spent in the local economy & the valuable lesson of witnessing the many abilities of people with disabilities.

  • Businesses

    Receive talented employees & specialized support for job acquisition & retention

  • People with Disabilities

    Gain employment, fair wages, benefits, & the dignity that arises from gainful employment.

  • Families

    See a family member in a fully competent role in the workplace.

  • Taxpayers

    Spend less money than they would have to support an individual with disabilities in a segregated day program & gain the economic contributions & tax revenue of fair wages.

Employment First Map: See what’s happening with Employment First activities across the country

This map is a resource for everyone involved in the Employment First movement including: individuals with disabilities, family members, employers, employment providers, state vocational rehabilitation staff, state developmental disability staff, educators, policymakers, researchers, and general community members.

There is an Employment First effort taking place in every state. States engage in Employment First initiatives in different ways. Currently, 31 states have passed Employment First Legislation, 16 states have Employment First Executive Orders, and 32 states have State Agency Administrative policies/regulations in place - all in support of Employment First. It is common for states to have a combination of legislation, Executive action and/or State Agency policy in place.

National APSE does not specifically endorse any particular approach to advancing Employment First. What is most important is the extent to which cross-systems collaboration is happening within states in a meaningful way and is leading to improved employment outcomes for people with disabilities.