Employment for most is not only a pathway to economic self-sufficiency but also social relationships, community credibility, and meaningful activities. Although the rhetoric around the employment of persons with developmental and other significant disabilities has been considerable, the corresponding activity in realizing this rhetoric has not. The rate of employment of such persons has shown little progress over the past decade. Although the economy has been challenging for many, this is not, nor even, the primary reason for the flat to declining rate of employment for this population.
The authors in this special issue of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities offer perspectives from their peer-reviewed articles into the need for change; some of the accomplishments as change has been embraced at the state, local, and individual levels; and a call for embracing more comprehensively the issues of employment for person with disabilities. At the heart of this special issue are the presumptions that (a) all individuals can, or should, be provided with opportunities to work; (b) the policies, procedures, and practices (Employment First) place the focus on employment; (c) the desired outcome is competitive integrated employment; and (d) the goal is parity in the labor force participation rates for persons with and those without disabilities.
As guest editors, we are committed to supporting the movement to competitive integrated employment, recognizing that this will only be successful if we are clear about where we are going; inclusive in the partnerships created; and, most important, focused on the interests and preferences of persons with developmental and other significant disabilities as we meet the growing needs of employers locally, statewide, and nationally.