The Illinois Employment First Act for the disabled, sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), passed the Senate today by a vote of 54-0 and now awaits the governor’s signature.

When state agencies help people with disabilities find employment, the measure would require them to first consider positions that offer competitive wages and the opportunity to work in an integrated setting alongside non-disabled employees.

“Illinois residents with disabilities have much to contribute to our workforce. It’s important to align the state’s policies with the values of inclusion and fair pay,” Biss said in a news release. “The Employment First Act is a necessary part of making sure our laws maximize the opportunities people with disabilities have to live with dignity.”

In Illinois, only 34.3 percent of adults with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 are employed. While 12.6 percent of adults without disabilities have incomes below the poverty line, 26.9 percent of adults with disabilities live in poverty.

If the Employment First Act (House Bill 2591) becomes law, a task force will collect data on job opportunities for workers with disabilities and establish measurable objectives for the state as it moves toward the goal of integrated, competitive employment for all.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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