May 30 2013

Employment First Ramping Up in Wisconsin

Posted by BPDD at 2:08 PM
- Categories: NNN

Madeleine Will, current Vice-President of Public Policy for the National Down Syndrome Society, participated in a two-day event in April that focused on expanding community employment options for people with disabilities in Wisconsin. Will is a lifetime advocate and experienced public policymaker for people with disabilities. She served as the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the U.S. Department of Education under President Reagan. With nearly 40 years of experience as a parent, policymaker, and advocate, Madeleine Will brought her wealth of wisdom, knowledge, and insights, and a unique perspective on why Employment First is good public policy. Employment First is a national movement that promotes employment in the community at minimum wage or higher as the preferred outcome for publicly-funded services for all working age citizens with disabilities. Employment First is one of the BPDD’s priority initiatives.

On the first day of Will’s visit, she participated in a breakfast meeting with Employment First Policy Team members and self-advocates to talk about efforts that are underway to expand community employment for people with disabilities in Wisconsin. Self-advocates shared their stories of why community employment is important to them and why they think Wisconsin needs to – and can do – better. In the afternoon, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services hosted a speaking engagement in which Will reflected on the role of Medicaid long-term care in advancing community-based employment for people with disabilities, and the growing national focus on community-integrated employment for people with long-term care needs. Over 50 people attended the presentation and another 60 participated via webcast.

On the second day of Will’s visit, the Wisconsin Employment First Team hosted an Employment First Legislative Breakfast in the State Capitol.  The team is a coalition of more than 40 organizations focused on improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities. The room was at its capacity of 100 with standing room only. Will’s messages were strong, stating that it is time to modernize disability policy in the 21st century. She discussed the need for our system to move from one of cyclical dependency to a self-sufficiency investment model, and  emphasized that personal freedom and economic self-sufficiency are cost effective. After the presentation, legislators met with their constituents and discussed options for Employment First in Wisconsin. In the afternoon, Will participated in a luncheon with Wisconsin Employment First Team members, providers, and people with disabilities from around the state. The title of Will’s presentation was “Employment First: This is a Marathon, Not a Race!” Will provided tips and inspired people to “Stick to the goal for the long haul.”  

Will committed to continue to support Wisconsin’s efforts to implement Employment First, and double the number of people with disabilities in community employment by 2016. The event was sponsored by the BPDD, the Wisconsin Association of People Supporting Employment First, the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin, Inc., and People First Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s First Statewide Employment First Conference Set for 2014

Mark your calendars! The first statewide Employment First conference will be held at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells on Thursday, April 3, 2014. The BPDD and the Wisconsin Association for Persons Supporting Employment First (APSE), along with many other organizations, will join forces to host a conference that will help us get closer to achieving our statewide goal of doubling the number of people with disabilities in Integrated Employment by 2016.  

The conference is for anyone interested in community employment for people with disabilities, including people with disabilities, families, long-term care providers (Family Care and IRIS), Aging and Disability Resource Centers, employment providers, state agency staff (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Public Instruction, and Department of Health Services), schools, service coordinators, and employers. A variety of topics will be addressed, including: Employment First policy and practice, Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP) re-balancing efforts, best practices in job development and job coaching, innovative employment practices happening in Wisconsin, employment and youth in transition, self-directed supports and employment, natural supports in the work environment, and much more!  

Watch for an upcoming survey that will be sent to you to get input on what you would like to see at the conference.  

For more information contact: Ann Sievert, BPDD, 608-267-9897 or



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