Are you interested in increasing integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities? Become part of the movement that helps community members and businesses see that people with disabilities want to gain skills and work.

Employment First is designed to improve our state and improve the working lives of people with disabilities. Our goals are:

  • Improve our state economy by helping businesses find talent and meet their needs by hiring people with disabilities.
  • Create policies and practices that increase the number of people with disabilities being employed in the community.
  • Support employment services to help working-age citizens with disabilities get jobs in the community that pay minimum wage or higher.

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Employment First Conference 

The 2020 Employment First Conference was held virtually May 19th and offered a variety of sessions geared toward policy, direct service, leadership and advocacy, including sessions by state and national experts. The plenary/keynote and breakout sessions were recorded. Find the recordings here. The 2021 conference will be held on May 13. Save the date!  

Who should attend:  Service providers, direct service professionals, funders, people with disabilities, families, and others who support people with disabilities to achieve employment, make connections and contribute to the community.


Become an Employment First Partner or Ambassador

Spread the word to others in your community about the importance of employment for people with disabilities.

Present to service clubs and business groups, organize community conversations, hold legislative events and town hall meetings, and educate people with disabilities and their families about having community jobs. Small grants from the WI BPDD are available to support your efforts.

Toolkits for Employment First Grantees
Real Life Stories

People with disabilities are capable of meaningful jobs – PSA (Camp Createability)

Jump! Start Partnership Supporting Employment First (Headwaters, Inc. and Nicolet College)

Employment First with James Edming 2018 (Medford Area Senior High)

Employment First Initiative and Legislation 2018 (Medford Area Senior High)

Giving Hope a Place to Work (Waukesha Independence Network)

Expect, Employ, Empower (Lakeside Curative)

Wisconsin Employment First – Medford Community 2016 (Medford Area Senior High)

Wisconsin Employment First – Overview 2017 (Medford Area High School)

Wisconsin Legislation

In 2017 two important pieces of legislation passed that relate to this national movement.

  1. The Employment First law (AB 625) prioritizes community employment for people with disabilities and aims to increase the number of people in community integrated jobs who are paid wages comparable to people without disabilities.
  2. The Partners with Business Bill (AB819)provides a small amount of funding for mini-grants to employment service providers, school districts, and funders to implement the support model.  This innovative approach helps businesses learn how to hire and support employees with disabilities using co-worker support.
Other Resources

Wisconsin Resources
Wisconsin Association for People Supporting Employment First (WI APSE) advocates for employment for people with disabilities. Wisconsin APSE is a chapter of National APSE.

Employment Planning modules, created by InControl Wisconsin and WI BPDD, are designed to help people with disabilities and those who support them to think about integrated employment options and supports.

National Resources

National APSE (Association of People Supporting Employment First) is a national organization with an exclusive focus on integrated employment and career advancement opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

The State Employment Leadership Network has put together a comprehensive list of Employment First activities, resources, and perspectives throughout the United States.

Real People, Real Jobs uses videos and written stories to highlight the employment successes of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are working in paid jobs in their communities.