While the majority of DirectEmployers Association staff was in attendance for the third day of our annual conference, Shannon Offord, Director of Business Development, was on a flight to present as a keynote speaker at Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ Employment Conference.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is dedicated to increasing employment opportunities for Floridians with disabilities. The opportunity to present to the agency’s conference surfaced after Shannon presented a webinar earlier this year about a national program being developed to help people with disabilities gain employment. The material caught the attention of a Medicare Infrastructure Grant (MIG) representative, who later invited him to share the information as part of a keynote presentation.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported (people with disabilities) unemployment was at 21% as of August. DirectEmployers Association is working on the program to improve these numbers in conjunction with several national partners including the National Organization on Disability (NOD), Association for Persons in Supported Employment (APSE), Think Beyond the Label (TBTL) and James Emmett Consulting.

The initiative includes three tiers: 1) job delivery to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies and similar providers; 2) educating providers on federal contractor regulations; 3) and helping companies develop appropriate strategies to recruit people with disabilities.

Shannon explained how the tiers correlate with some of the contributing factors to the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities. For example, workers at the Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and the provider community must often spend the majority of their time finding jobs on websites and soliciting employers versus having meaningful conversations with companies about opportunities for people with disabilities.

A lot of providers are unaware that federal contractors are required to appropriately reach out to people with disabilities, and that the government is pursuing more aggressive regulatory measures. “Many of the attendees didn’t realize there were regulations out there such as Section 503 and 508,” stated Shannon.

After the presentation, Shannon had 35 minutes of Q&A time, which unfortunately had to be cut short. “So many people came up and thanked us for the work we’re doing. I was honored and humbled.”

DirectEmployers Association Members can expect to see more details in the coming weeks on the program and how they will benefit. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. For more information and helpful resources, visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website or contact your DirectEmployers Association membership development representative at 1-866-268-6206.

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