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Report Shows Slight Improvement In Employment Rate For People With Disabilities

Most Recent Data Shows Wisconsin Performs Better Than National Average

Matthew McMeekin getting off a bus
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

Recently released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows small improvements in the employment rate for people with disabilities in 2016.

Nationally, people with disabilities are employed at 17.9 percent, up from 17.5 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, nearly two thirds of people without disabilities have jobs, which also had a slight increase, according to the data.

The employment rate for people with disabilities in Wisconsin is 20 percent, according to the most recent data from the Dane County Department of Human Services.

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But, Beth Swedeen, executive director of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, says one Wisconsin county has been able to get the employment rate up to 60 percent.

“Dane County is the leader in the country for getting people with significant disabilities into employment,” Swedeen said. “But they have had a set of long-term care policies that really has led to prioritizing public dollars to that employment.”

A strong transportation system is also a contributing factor to Dane County’s employment rate, Swedeen said. Some employment providers in the county also make workplace support accessible for employees without disabilities.

“We have to focus our public policies more directly at supporting people with disabilities to get into work that’s a good match for them, and then make sure they’re supported to learn the job and maintain it,” Swedeen said.

She said other counties across the state and country can apply lessons learned in Dane County to increase the employment rate for people with disabilities.

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