Employment First: What’s It All About?

Raising expectations: Employment is not a program. It’s an outcome.


Employment First in Ohio is part of a national movement to better ensure equal employment opportunities for all people. Signed by Governor Kashich in 2012, Employment First states that community employment (that is both integrated and pays at least minimum wage) is now the first and preferred choice for all individuals with a developmental disability. Every person has abilities, skills, and talents that will enrich the community and people around us. Every agency, school, organization, and individual within our community plays a role by focusing on strengths and providing the best

Employment First: Changing Expectations
Watch: Employment First: Changing Expectations
Link to Employment First Video
Watch: Employment First: Defining Lives

Please click on the images above to view videos (Links will take you to the Ohio Employment First site).

The Erie County Board of DD has made Employment First a priority. Please take your time looking over the information below and on each different tab. The ECBDD is always open to hearing feedback and input from those we serve, their families, and community members. To share any comments, questions, concerns, or website ideas please contact EmploymentFirst@eriecbdd.org

Changing State Policy

In order to make community employment the expected and preferred outcome for people with developmental disabilities, the Ohio DD system is required to align policies, procedures, eligibility, enrollment and planning for services across state agencies. Other requirements include development of universal tools for documentation, eligibility, selection, assessment and planning of services. Identification of best practices, partnerships, funding sources, opportunities for shared services among County Boards of DD and the providers is required along with expanding model programs. Expectations will be set for students with DD, ages 14 and up, transition from school settings to job in their communities to make sure they have access to community employment opportunities that utilize their skills and abilities.

Read the Employment First Administrative Rule here

Read the Ohio Employment First Taskforce Common Principles here


A Local Priority

The Erie County Board of Developmental Disabilities supports people and their families in making choices to pursue the lives they want to live.

The Erie County Board of DD has made community employment for those we serve a priority. ECBDD believes that every person has unique talents, interests, and abilities that can lead to employment and personal success. Community employment is supported through partnerships with local agencies such as Opportunity for Ohioans with Disability (OOD), cooperation with school systems during transition years, and the use of individual budgets.

In May 2014 the ECBDD with praetorship of dozens of local agencies, schools, and individuals began meeting to discuss topics around Employment First. In October 2014 this team completed the Local Leader Needs assessment to help with strategic planning and the identification of area training needs.

Contact EmploymentFirst@eriecbdd.org to learn more about getting involved in local Employment First efforts.

The Employee

Employment is a major part of most working age people’s lives. Work is a way to make money, find friends, and be a part of the community. With changes under Employment First every person now has the presumption of employability. Instead of determining if someone can work, the goal is now to help that person figure out where they want to work. Studies show individuals want to work, but are grossly under represented in the workforce

According to Ohio Employment First data, 50% of individuals surveyed want a job in the community, but only about 12% of those surveyed are working in the community.

The national unemployment for adults with a disability is consistently double compared to non-disabled adults. High unemployment rates are leading people with disabilities to live in poverty. In 2011, of those living below the poverty threshold, 42.9% were people who had a cognitive disability and were on SSI (according to American Community Survey)

Success is possible. Companies across the nation are making an effort to recruit and employ people with a variety of skills and talents. The video link below shares the stories of two women in Maryland who are valued employees.

The Path to Employment

Each person receiving services from the Erie County Board of DD must have a spot of the PATH to Employment. The PATH ensures every person will have the opportunity to reach their own individual community employment goals. The PATH allows for movement and growth in the world of employment. Look at the spots below and think about where you fall on the PATH to Employment.

1. I have a job but would like a better one or to move up

2. I want a job! I need help to find one

3. I’m not sure about work. I need help to learn more

4. I don’t think I want to work, but I may not know enough about it

The Path to Employment provides options and choices around the question of employment. Through the person centered planning process, each person will have the opportunity to learn about community employment and decide what their own employment goals are. Each spot has coordinating activities and experiences, specific to each person, that will help individuals learn more about employment opportunities and options. Check out the person friendly guides to Path to Employment here, or by clicking on the gender specific pictures below.

Employment First Rule Companion for Women
Employment First Rule Companion for Women
Employment First Rule Companion for Men
Employment First Rule Companion for Men










Employment does not have to mean 40 hours per week. Every person has different needs, skills, and abilities. The goal to to help every person find a job they love that fits both their and the employers needs. Working with the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) and a provider individuals can learn more about what employment will look like for them.

More Information at the Ohio Employment First website

Ohio Employment First has a wonderful website for job seekers, families, providers, employers, and professionals. For additional resources, information, and training opportunities check out the Ohio Employment First website here.

News from Disability Rights Ohio

Disability Rights Ohio is a wonderful resource for families and individuals to learn more about their rights under Ohio and Federal Law. Check out the full website Disability Rights Ohio for more information.

December 18, 2014 Disability Rights Ohio responds to common questions about its efforts to change the DD system

Contact the ECBDD Self Advocacy and Employment First Advisor directly

Jennifer Yingling is the Self Advocacy and Employment First advisor. She can be contacted via email at jyingling@eriecbdd.org