What is Employment First?

Florida is an Employment First state. The Employment First Act became law in January 2016. It defined employment as:

Integrated employment…where an individual is paid by an employer at minimum wage or greater or receives earnings through one’s self-employment business, fully integrated in the community workforce, with a goal of maximum self-sufficiency. 

Fast Facts

How many Floridians with disabilities are working?

There are many different ways to answer this question. Check out our latest Fast Facts featuring data from the sources below!

#6 American Community Survey

One way is to look at data from the United States Government. It collects information through the United States Census. This survey is called the American Community Survey (ACS).

#7 Indicator 14: Post-School Outcomes

Indicator 14: Post-School Outcomes measures the percent of youth with disabilities who are no longer in high school, had Individualized Education Plans when they left school, and were enrolled in higher education or working in the community within one year of leaving high school.

#8 National Core Indicators Project

Data from the National Core Indicators (NCI) Project can help us understand what percentage of people are working and what percentage of people want to work.

#9 Rehabilitation Services Administration-911

Florida’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation reports data every year to the Rehabilitation Services Administration, which is part of the US government.The report shares the outcomes of the services Florida VR gave to job seekers with disabilities.

#10 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Florida reports data on individuals who got behavioral health services that are funded through grants from the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral health services are ways of helping people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders.

Why is employment important for people with disabilities?

People with disabilities are LESS likely to work and MORE likely to live in poverty when compared to people without disabilities. Poverty is incredibly limiting. It limits where you live, how you get places, what you do in your free time, and the number of people you know.

Employment not only helps to reduce poverty, it also gives us independence and control over our own lives. It presents us with the opportunity to learn new things, gain skills, and make friends with people we meet through our job.

Brick by brick: Building a talent pipeline through work-based learning for students with disabilities

Youtube Video


New laws are making it easier for vocational rehabilitation (or VR) departments to strengthen local partnerships with Florida school districts. These partnerships support high students with disabilities to transition to employment after postsecondary education.

One way that students can access VR’s services before completing school is through a work-based learning experience (WBLE). While participating in a WBLE, students spend their time in a real work environment, taking on workplace responsibilities, acquiring skills, and gaining insight into their own work interests and the requirements of careers. A WBLE also requires that students take an active part in the program, learning new skills and evaluating themselves on their progress. WBLEs are open to students with disabilities ages 14 to 21 who are still in school. Continue reading “Brick by brick: Building a talent pipeline through work-based learning for students with disabilities”

Autism resources

Recently, a mom who follows along with our project sent some autism resources for us to share with you. Check them out. If you have any recommended resources, let us know!

Florida Employment First Collaborative Training Toolkit: A Resource for Funders and Employment Service Providers

The Florida Employment First Collaborative Training (EFCT) Toolkit provides a guide for all employment service professionals — from executive directors and managers to front-line direct support staff — to assess their current capacity and training needs and to identify options for addressing them. Directors and managers may refer to the EFCT Toolkit as a resource to plan overall training for agency staff as a whole as well as to identify specific training needs of individual staff. Evaluating training needs on an individual basis allows customization of staff training to meet the specific needs of each particular staff member — a far more effective strategy for addressing ongoing professional development needs. The guide is a companion to the domain videos also found on this website. Continue reading “Florida Employment First Collaborative Training Toolkit: A Resource for Funders and Employment Service Providers”

Interviews with Florida ARF & The Arc of Florida, May 18, 2020

On May 18, Employment First Florida interviewed Suzanne Sewell, presidents and CEO of the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities and Kirk Hall, executive director of The ARC of Florida

Suzanne and Kirk joined us for the first session of the Profiles of the Employment First Florida Interagency Collaborative Team online series. The series provides people with an update on the progress being made by the agencies who signed the Employment First Florida Interagency Collaborative Agreement. Watch the recording to learn about the projects, initiatives, and experiences both FL ARF and the Arc have had since the original signing.

Interview text coming soon!


Session 2: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 3-4pm ET
Session 3: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 3-4pm ET

Typewriter announcement

Announcement! Online Special Series: Profiles of the Employment First Florida Interagency Collaborative Team May, July, October 2020

In recognition of the renewal of the Employment First Florida Interagency Collaborative Agreement, Employment First Florida will be hosting 3 online presentations to profile the work being done by each of the signatory agencies of the agreement. Join us to learn about their efforts to improve employment services and outcomes for Floridians with disabilities.

Session 1: Tuesday, May 19, 2020 3-4pm ET
Register now for May 19

Session 2: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 3-4pm ET
Session 3: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 3-4pm ET
Registration information for these events is TBA

For more information, contact Jean at jean.winsor@umb.edu.

Woman with Mask

Check out the ICI’s self-advocate webinar on May 8

The Institute for Community Inclusion, in partnership with self-advocates in New York and Massachusetts, is hosting a webinar this Friday, May 8th at 3pm ET entitled Our Stories: Young Adults, Work, and Personal Experience During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Join them to hear self-advocates’ stories about the impact social distancing and technology has had on their work, and other parts of their lives, such as staying in touch with family, friends, and support staff. Each of the presenters work on a research project that focuses on transition practices.   Register online for this event!

For more information, please email: Allison.Hall@umb.edu