About the Initiative

'Ability for Hire' is an effort to increase awareness about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities through the South Dakota Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. The initiative was inspired by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard's involvement with the National Governors Association (NGA), and its exploration of ways to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities.

Both of my parents taught me the value of hard work, and I saw their pride in self-sufficiency.

– Governor Daugaard, on his parents who were deaf

Governor Daugaard told participants at an NGA forum in early 2013 of his experience growing up as the son of a profoundly deaf father and severely deaf mother in eastern South Dakota. He described how his parents' disabilities affected life at home, where he and his siblings grew up using American Sign Language (ASL) even earlier than spoken words. He was inspired by what his parents taught him about the value of hard work and independence. Governor Daugaard told the NGA he wanted to do more in his own state to develop and maintain employment opportunities for South Dakotans with disabilities, using his unique upbringing to form his leadership.

Governor Daugaard announced his Employment Works Initiative in the spring of 2013, and a task force was created in July 2013 to help guide his efforts. Assembling a broad spectrum of interests was considered integral to the success of the South Dakota Employment Works Task Force: businesses, individuals with disabilities and their family members, legislators, nonprofit stakeholders, providers, and state agency representatives. Members were recruited from across the state, and meetings began in August 2013. Their observations, ideas, and suggestions were delivered to the Governor and Legislature in a report later that year.

Five prevailing recommendations from this report were made and developed:

  • Find and support businesses to employ people with disabilities.
  • Connect businesses to employees with disabilities.
  • Eliminiate disincentives to employment for people with disabilities.
  • Develop flexible systems and promote promising practices.
  • Educate the public, providers, employers and people with disabilities.

I believe that in this world people with disabilities often develop higher levels of determination and accomplishment because they have to.
– Governor Daugaard



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