Governor Bob McDonnell signed Executive Order No. 55 on Nov. 16, 2012, with the goal of enhancing employment opportunities for Virginians with disabilities. This executive order, though signed in November, will be formally presented and shared at a legislative reception on Jan. 30 at Old City Hall. The annual event, hosted by the Virginia Association of Community Rehabilitation Programs (vaACCESS), will be attended by representatives of the key state agencies and community-based partners in the Commonwealth's efforts to support Virginians with disabilities in our workforce.
Governor McDonnell aptly stated in his inaugural State of the Commonwealth address, "The inherent dignity of a good day's work in a worthwhile pursuit strengthens the soul, supports the family, and reduces dependence on government."
The order states, "It is the policy of the Commonwealth to encourage and enable persons with disabilities, including our wounded soldiers, to participate fully and equally in the social and economic life of the Commonwealth and to engage in remunerative employment."
Approximately 35 percent of Virginians with disabilities are employed, according to the 2010 census. This number indicates an underrepresentation of people with disabilities among the gainfully employed.
The order requests that the departments for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and Blind and Vision Impaired collaborate with relevant state agencies to better promote the value and benefits of employing individuals with disabilities. Additionally, these departments will provide information and support to employers in both public and private sectors especially in the use of assistive technology to advance individuals with disabilities in the workforce.
It also challenges the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) along with other state agencies to continue to use Employment First strategies. New Employment First policies were implemented in 2011 to give people with disabilities the choice to receive assistance in securing meaningful employment before being offered less integrated services. DBHDS will use its recently completed strategic plan to increase employment opportunities.
Executive Order 55 can be found here: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/PolicyOffice/ExecutiveOrders/viewEO.cfm?eo=55