Two federal agencies are joining forces in an effort to expand employment among those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Under an agreement reached this week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities plan to work together to encourage broader adoption of so-called “employment first” policies.

The approach emphasizes integrated employment — where people with disabilities earn at least minimum wage working in environments where most employees are typically developing — as a first option for all individuals no matter how severe their needs.

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The agencies plan to work together for at least the next two years to promote employment first by sharing information and resources, issuing joint policy statements and other efforts, according to the agreement.

Several states from Oregon to Delaware already have employment first policies or initiatives in place. By combining resources and working more closely together, officials at the Labor Department and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities say they hope to spur greater expansion.

“This agreement is an opportunity for ODEP and AIDD to work together to further disability employment practices and support state efforts to transform public systems so that they reflect integrated employment as a priority outcome for citizens with significant disabilities,” said Kathleen Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy.

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