What is Employment First?

​A national movement, Employment First, is a framework for systems change that is centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life.  Under this approach, publicly-financed systems are urged to align policies, service delivery practices, and reimbursement structures to commit to integrated employment as the priority for publicly funded services for youth and adults with significant disabilities.

Under the Employment First approach, community-based, integrated employment is to be the first option for services for youth and adults with significant disabilities. (U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy)

Employment First initiatives are about raising expectations of individuals, families, state agencies, and service providers and implementing better employment practices for people with disabilities.   Federal legislation, funding and policies support state’s emphasizing competitive, integrated employment as the preferred outcome. 

Maryland's Developmental Disabilities Administration's Employment First policy

In 2008/2009, the Developmental Disabilities Administration’s (DDA) engaged stakeholders in an intensive strategic planning process, including planning to improve employment outcomes for people with developmental disabilities in Maryland.   The following position statement is in support of the DDA’s broader values, mission and vision and is a product of that strategic planning process.

“The DDA believes that all people with developmental disabilities CAN work, and contribute to their community, when given opportunity, training, and supports that build on their strengths.  Employment will be the first option considered for all people of working age who receive DDA services.”

Why Not Work?

​As part of Maryland's Employment First efforts, a video was developed to address parent  fears and concerns as it relates to employment.  


Maryland Employment First Activities

​To receive notices of monthly Employment First webinars/conference calls and other updates specific to  Maryland, please send an email request to be added to the distribution list to Staci Jones (DDA) at: staci.jones@maryland.gov.​

National Employment First Activities

Maryland also participates in the US Department of Labor's Office on Disability Employment Policy's Employment First Community of Practice.  There is no cost to subscribe and there are monthly national webinars on best practices in employment​ available to subscribers. ​

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