Governor Daugaard is making jobs for people with disabilities a high priority. He wrote a column this week outlining the story of his parents both being deaf, yet able to find meaningful work to support the family.

The Governor wrote:

 "My mom and dad took pride in  self-reliance and taught me the value of hard work. They both worked hard on our  family farm, and when the farm went upside-down financially, they both took jobs  as janitors at Augustana College to make ends meet.  They taught us that all work has dignity and that  idleness is not an option. Their disability led them to develop higher levels of  determination and persistence."

Recently, the Governor is working with Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, the chair  of the National Governors Association (NGA), to hold several forums that focus  on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

Governor Daugaard wants to make South Dakota an “employment-first state.” He wants state government to commit itself to making employment the first priority and the preferred outcome for citizens with disabilities. Many with disabilities, particularly those  with intellectual disabilities, are employed in “shelter work environments,” which separate them into separate work places, his goal is to include these people in the regular workforce. According to the Governor, research has shown this to be far better,  economically and socially.

The Governor wrote:

"Reaching this goal  will take a concentrated effort, and there are many stakeholders who can help  advance this worthy goal. As with the Criminal Justice Initiative last year, I  have created a broadly representative task force to investigate this issue. The  group will include those with disabilities and their families; representatives  of business and industry; lawmakers; state government officials; and  representatives of nonprofit agencies and community providers. I’ve asked for  their recommendations toward increasing the number of South Dakotans with  disabilities who are employed. "

The Department of Human Services is providing staff assistance to the group. Details of membership, meeting dates, and locations will be released soon.

Governor Dennis Daugaard finished his column with these words:

"I believe the time  has come for South Dakotans to work together to ensure people with disabilities  have the opportunity to do what they want to do – work alongside their friends  and neighbors and provide for themselves and their  families."