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Employment First

About Employment First

Employment First supports integrated employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). 

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For individuals

 Learn about...

  • Paths to individual integrated employment
  • Agencies that help with employment support
  • Supported Employment Services
Individuals and families

For employers

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  • Benefits of hiring people with an intellectual or developmental disability
  • Benefits of a diverse workforce
  • Links to resources
Employers and business

For providers

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  • Assist people with their employment goals
  • Help them get, learn and keep the jobs of their choice
  • Provide support to employers
Providers and partners

Learn more about Employment First

Oregon's Employment First initiative is a catalyst for state agencies to work together to improve community job outcomes for people with I/DD. Cooperating agencies include:

​​Employment First is both a philosophy and an Oregon state policy. As a philosophy, Employment First is based on the presumption that working age adults and youth with I/DD can work in jobs fully integrated in the community. Integrated employment includes typical workplace settings where there are regular opportunities for meaningful interacti​on with co-workers without disabilities and/or customers or the general public. This can also include self-employment. The employment of individuals with I/DD adds to the diversity of the workforce and general enrichment of communities.

The Employment First polic​y​​ states that work in integrated jobs is the first and priority option in planning employment services for working-age adults and youth. Services should be planned to use person-centered practices that identify an individual's talents, skills, and interests. This information can then help inform employment options and career opportunities.

Oregon has partnered with a variety of community partners and self-advocates to develop a plan for successful implementation of the Employment First initiative and the Governor's Executive Order 15-01​. These partners include:

​Oregon was one of the first states to formally adopt an Employment First Policy​. Adoption of the Employment First policy in 2008 was one result of Oregon advocates’ efforts to bring more employment opportunities for Oregon’s citizens experiencing intellectual and developmental disab​​​​ilities. Since that time, approximately half the states have adopted Employment First policies or legislation and another 14 have actions related to an Employment First initiative.

From 2010 to 2012, ODHS focused on out​reach to promote the Employment First policy. This included a statewide Employment First summit in September 2010, where self-advocates created this statement.

  • Everyone can work and there is a job for everyone. Our job is to be creative and tenacious in providing support.
  • Not working should be the exception. All individuals, schools, families and businesses must raise their expectations.
  • People will be hired because of their ability not because they have a disability.
  • Communities embrace people who contribute.
  • Everyone has something to contribute and needs to contribute.
  • People are healthier, safer and happiest with meaningful work.
  • True employment is not a social service.
  • Employment is a win/win for everybody.

In April 2013, Governor Kitzhaber issued an Executive Order as the next step in Oregon’s ongoing commitment to ​integrated employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also issued this letter to ODHS staff affirming Oregon’s commitment to offering integrated employment services for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

In May 2013, the Office of Developmental Disabilities Services,Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Education, and the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities, signed a Memor​andum​​​ of Understanding​ on Transition of Students with Disabilities to the Workforce. This agreement was made to help support and increase the number of students with disabilities transitioning from secondary schools to integrated, community-based employment or post-secondary education.​

​The Integrated E​mployment Plan* is mandated by the Governor’s Executive Order 13-04. While the Integrated Employment Plan is required in the Order, it is also the result of partner/self-advocate discussions and feedback leading to the strategic thinking, development, and implementation of the Employment First​ policy​. These discussions have involved a wide range of self-advocates, families, provider agencies, advocacy organizations, colleagues, consultants, and state leaders – both executive and legislative. The result has been a rich and comprehensive dialog resulting in a broad array of information, perspectives and ideas. This Integrated Employment Plan summarizes goals, strategies, and key activities necessary to provide high-quality, effective and cost-conscious services to Oregonians with I/DD.

*Due to the recent website migration, links within the Integrated Employment Plan are broken. Below is additional information regarding this plan.