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Walker Turns Attention To Employment Opportunities For People With Disabilities

Walker To Grocer's Association: People With Disabilities Are 'Loyal, Dependable' Employees

Gov. Scott Walker outlined an employment initiative in Wednesday night's State of the State. Photo: Gage Skidmore (CC-BY-SA)

Groups representing people with disabilities support Gov. Scott Walker’s employment initiative outlined in Wednesday night’s State of the State address.

On Thursday, in a speech quite similar to the one he gave on Wednesday night, Walker specifically asked the Wisconsin Grocer’s Association (WGA) to hire disabled workers.

“It’s something you may not have thought about before, but … I would encourage you to talk to those of you who have,” said Walker. “Overwhelmingly, I have found that employers who hired people with disabilities have found they have some of the most loyal, dependable, reliable employees.”

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Less than 20 percent of people with disabilities in Wisconsin are employed. Most want to work, said Beth Sweeden, of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities. She supports Walker’s push for private-sector hiring through a program called A Better Bottom Line.

“Those folks in the for-profit business world are folks who are going to be paying a market wage,” said Sweeden. “And that’s where we’ve put our focus. If somebody does a good job at work they get the same pay as anybody else.”

Advocates for the disabled say the state can further improve hiring by setting employment targets in state programs.

In his speech on Wednesday night, Walker proposed spending more money on an existing program for the disabled called Project SEARCH, a year-long program in which high school students get vocational training. Currently, seven companies are in the SEARCH program.

Walker said he would like that to increase to 20 over the next three years.