Arkansas Employment First is a philosophy that all people with disabilities who are of working age or transition-age youth should have opportunities to work in their own communities, in an integrated setting, for competitive wages. Proponents of Employment First say that this approach ensures that people with disabilities receive better wages, better benefits, improved health, and a better quality of life. No longer accepting that sheltered workshops for sub-minimum wages are acceptable employment outcomes for folks with disabilities, Employment First advocates say that this approach is about raising expectations for what is possible and desirable for people with disabilities, and that with the right supports, people with disabilities can enjoy fulfilling careers and contribute to the economy of their communities.
One of the most important supports for people with disabilities to live and work independently in the community is the Direct Support Professional. Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, provide direct care to the individuals they support, so that those individuals are able to live and work in the least restrictive environment possible. DSPs are hard-working folks! They help teach, guide, and support basic activities of living and help support an individual’s mental and physical health. They do an incredibly important job that requires a wide range of skills, specialized education, even professional certification in some cases – but DSPs don’t get a lot of support themselves. They’re underpaid, overworked, undervalued, and receive very little investment in the way of training and professional development, despite their important role.
What are we doing to ensure that people with disabilities have the supports they need to pursue the same employment opportunities that those without disabilities enjoy? People with disabilities in the workforce, and the people who support them: that’s our topic on this week’s episode of Speak Up Arkansas.
This week, we welcome back Syard Evans, CEO of Arkansas Support Network and President of the Arkansas Waiver Association; and Jonathan Taylor, Executive Director of the Arkansas Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.
You can check out the episode this Wednesday, March 16 at 5:00 p.m. on KABF 88.3 FM, via livestream at kabf.org. And as always, if you miss the show live, you can listen on our website.
For much more on the Medicaid Waiver, check out our January show, Episode #24 at https://disabilityrightsar.org/speak-up-arkansas-archive/
Arkansas APSE (Association of Persons Supporting Employment First)
APSE is a national membership organization focused exclusively on Employment First to facilitate the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and community.
The Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD or Council) promotes integration, inclusion and independence for Arkansans with developmental disabilities (DD).
ASN provides support and services to individuals and families with children with disabilities. They are a licensed disabilities service provider for all of Arkansas, with offices in Springdale, Fort Smith, Camden, and Jonesboro. They work with a wide range of government agencies and departments, nonprofit organizations, health care facilities, education agencies, local schools, foundations, businesses, and individuals to provide the most effective and least restrictive supports for people with disabilities in environments they and their families choose for themselves.
If you need help or your rights are not being respected, call Disability Rights Arkansas at 800-482-1174. We provide information and referral, advocacy, and legal services to people with disabilities.