State officials first had to get a good count of Tennesseans with disabilities who've been able to hold down a paying job before setting a goal to double the figure in five years. So they surveyed the local agencies that help administer benefits from the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
“We’ve seen so many examples of people with disabilities who want to work and contribute to their communities,” DIDD commissioner Debra Payne said in a statement. “When they can do that and earn a fair wage, it changes their whole outlook on life.”
These web based questionaires found that half of those who get state benefits don't want to work. And a quarter of them say they can't because of their health.
There are 896 people who've been able to work even while supported by the state. That's about a 17 percent employment rate for those who have a disability.
Jeremy Norden-Paul, who is the state director of employment for disabled people, says that leaves room for improvement, especially since a job can help disabled people make more connections in the community and improve their self worth.
"We know that there are lots of folks out there who want to work. And we also know that there are lots of businesses out there in Tennessee who want to hire good employees, including those who have disabilities," he said in a video release. "So we know that the goal of doubling our employment rate is very possible."
State officials plan to tally employment numbers every six months.