July 12th the Department of Labor and Employment announced Colorado was selected to join a growing list of states participating in the national Employment First program that aims to help people with disabilities obtain Competitive, Integrated Employment. KGNU spoke with Patricia Henke, the Supported Employment Program Manager with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation which is a part of the Department of Labor and Employment, and Bob Lawhead, the Policy Advisor for the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council which is a part of the Department of Human Services. Both are members of the Employment First Advisory Partnership.
“Currently 65% of the general U.S. population participates in the workforce, for people with disabilities that figure is only 18%. The education community and quite frankly the medical community is still trying to catch up on this realization that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you’re not going to be able to be a full participating member of society and have a job that you’ll be able to hold down and provide that contribution to the local community.” – Bob Lawhead
“When we use customized employment strategies where we’re matching an employee’s strengths, their intrests, their capabilities, what we call conditions for success, with an employer’s need the outcome is not only that the employer has a highly productive employee but…it really lends itself to a more rich, diverse environment for the company.” – Patricia Henke