(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The state of Missouri is taking the initiative to bring more employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities.
On Monday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed Executive Order 19-16 officially making Missouri a "Model Employer" state. The initiative is aimed at helping people with disabilities get more competitive job options.
"I think it's an outstanding opportunity that our state government is showing the initiative to show the population, private industry, non-profits and other levels of government that employment amongst peoples with disabilities is an extremely valuable asset," Rob Honan, CEO of Meril, said.
Meril is a non-profit organization in St. Joseph that provides services and resources to disabled people. Honan says nearly 50 percent of their staff is also disabled.
Specialty Industries also employs over 100 individuals with disabilities. The president of the non-profit, Byron Myers, says he's grateful to see the governor helping all types of people.
"I appreciate the state kind of stepping up to the plate, so to speak, and saying we're going to be good examples on trying to find newer or improved ways to hire disabled persons," Myers said.
A press release from the governor's office states the employment rate for working-age Missourians without disabilities is 79.8 percent, while the rate for those with disabilities is only 31.7 percent.
"One of the biggest challenges is honestly the misperception that people with disabilities cannot do a job," Honan said. "With the proper accommodations and understanding and teamwork and shared vision, people with disabilities seamlessly are employed."
The state is setting yearly goals to make sure the employment rate for disabled persons increases under the Model Employment program.
"Seeing this bill from the governor I think is a really nice step for the state to step up and say, you know, we're going to see if we can do better," Myers said.
A 'Missouri as a Model Employer Talent Showcase' will be held at the State Capital on October 10. It will allow those with disabilities to display their skills to possible employers.
“Being a Model Employer is critical to developing and maintaining a talented state workforce that reflects the rich diversity of Missourians,” Governor Parson said. “We are committed to doing everything we can, both through this initiative and other efforts, to eliminate barriers to employment and expand job offers to individuals of all abilities.”