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.

Contact Molly

Employment First Conference • May 19, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Employment First Conference is moving from a face-to-face conference to a virtual conference. Details on the virtual event will be coming in the next 2-3 weeks. Please continue to save the date – May 19th!
If you have already registered for the face-to-face conference, your registration fees will be fully refunded. UW Stevens Point, the organization that handles registration, will be contacting you directly and will process your refund.

If you have already reserved a hotel room, please contact the Kalahari directly to cancel your room. You can cancel your reservation online, if you know your confirmation number by clicking here. Otherwise, please call the Kalahari directly at 877-525-2427. You may experience longer than usual wait times.

This year’s Employment First conference will offer a variety of sessions geared toward policy, direct service, leadership and advocacy, including sessions by state and national experts.

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.

Register by May 12th! 


Virtual Conference Registration - Coming Soon

Conference Details

Registration Fees:

Standard registration- $125 each

People with Disabilities and family members of people with disabilities- $30 each

Aide to a Person with a Disability- $25 each

Microenterprise Vendor – $25

A limited number of scholarships to cover registration fees are available for people with disabilities and family members.  Please contact Molly Cooney at 608-266-0266 for more information.

Event Details:

  • Conference Session Descriptions
  • CEUs/CRCs will also be available
  • A room block has been reserved at the Kalahari Resort for the night before the conference (May 18th) until April 18th. For reservations, please click here. Two room types are available: Single rooms are available for $82 per night and rooms for 2-4 people are $129 per night.  For more information on the room types, please visit the Kalahari website at, pick the Wisconsin Dells link, click “Resort” and then click “Room Type.”

Be an EF Conference Sponsor!

Show your support for Employment First and supporting individuals with disabilities to be involved in their communities by becoming a Wisconsin Employment First Conference Sponsor! Your sponsorship will help bring more engaging and informative speakers to the conference to share their experiences with service transformation, building partnerships, and supporting individuals with disabilities to live, learn, work, and play in their communities.  More information and the sponsorship form are available here.

Interested in being a Microvendor?

This is a great opportunity to market your business and sell your products. Tables are available for self-employed business owners with disabilities. More information is available here.  Please note:  Applications from service providers or other organizations to exhibit at the conference will not be accepted. If you are an organization wishing to exhibit at the conference, please see the EF Conference Sponsor information above.

If you have any questions, please contact Molly Cooney at or call 608-266-0266.


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.

Applications available spring 2020!


Partner/Ambassador Application

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.