Coalition for the Employment of Californians with Disabilities - Memorandum

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Coalition for the Employment of Californians with Disabilities - Memorandum

To: Potential Partners
From: Disability Rights California
Re: Coalition for the Employment of Californians with Disabilities

In January 2021, President Biden began his term as the 46th President of the United States.  He has made clear that one of his top priorities will be to rebuild our economy in the wake of the pandemic in a manner that is more just, more inclusive, more equitable, and more resilient than the economy we had going into the pandemic.  He calls this initiative “Building Back Better.”

Disability Rights California has been working with partners for years to promote an economy that is open and accessible to all people with all types of disabilities, including people from intersectional communities and people who have significant support needs.  As California recovers from the economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state must reshape the labor market with new vision for the inclusion and equity of people with disabilities. Our goals include:

  • Increase labor market participation for people with disabilities.
  • Close the gap in service disparities for Black, Indigenous and communities of color.
  • Ensure people with disabilities can participate in program design, policy decisions, and California’s economic recovery efforts.
  • Increase access to a living wage for people with disabilities.
  • Increase opportunities for work-based learning from an early age.
  • Increase access to employment supports for people who need them.

We cannot achieve these goals without the engagement of California’s diverse disability community and our allies.

The Coalition for the Employment of Californians with Disabilities invites you to join us in Transforming California’s Approach to Disability Employment by:

  • Joining the Coalition for the Employment of Californians with Disabilities.
  • Hosting a community conversation that will inform and drive the work of the Coalition.
  • Attending our October 2021 events in celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Community Conversations

A community conversation is an informal virtual or in-person gathering where participants share ideas and experiences, engage in a dialog that highlights common goals and develops understanding.  Additionally, we hope these conversations will be a launch pad for developing action items that we, together as a community, can achieve to bring us closer to our goals of advancing disability employment in California.

If you would like to host a community conversation and can bring together people to participate DRC will provide you with a social media toolkit, discussion outline, and other support you need.  Please connect with Connie Chu at for more information.  For information in Spanish, contact

October 5 and 12, 2021 events in celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month

The Coalition for the Employment of Californians with Disabilities in partnership with the UC Davis MIND Institute - Business Advisory Council, Chapman University - Thompson Policy Institute, and the Orange County Local Partnership Agreement will host two virtual events – October 5th for Northern California and October 12th  for Southern California. The events will focus on highlighting successful local models and best practices that promote disability diversity in the workforce.  Events will be two-hour sessions and highlight two success stories, including a fireside chat and Q&A session with diverse community members working in various sectors and create an opportunity for roundtable discussions amongst peers.


As California recovers from the economic crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state must reshape the labor market with new vision for the inclusion and equity of people with disabilities. This should include assistance with both re-entering the labor market and with creating new businesses owned and operated by people with disabilities from intersectional communities.

After the economic downturn of 2008, many sectors and systems were rebuilt in the same manner that historically left people with disabilities and particularly disabled Black, Indigenous and people of color unemployed, underemployed and earning subminimum wage in segregated settings.  In September 2008, just before the major job loss months of the Great Recession, 32.7 percent of working-age people with disabilities were employed.  Over 11 years later, this percentage never reached this level again, with the closest month coming only recently, 31.4 percent in November 2019.  In 2018, while 0.8 percent of California’s were Native American, this population represented the highest reporting rate of disability at 14.7 percent.  Similarly, 5.8 percent of Californians were Black/African American, and represented the second highest reporting rate of disability (13.1 percent).

In 2015, the California Departments of Education, Rehabilitation, and Developmental Services, in consultation and collaboration with Disability Rights California, issued the California Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) Blueprint.  The CIE Blueprint, intended to cover a five-year period, reflected an interagency effort to improve employment outcomes in the competitive labor market for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In the intervening years, the Blueprint has not produced transformational progress in the employment outcomes of its intended beneficiaries.  We need to take stock of what we have learned throughout the Blueprint process (recognizing that it is still underway), and recommit our State to being a national leader in CIE with clear goals for outcomes.

Furthermore, people with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, both Nationally and in California. In California, there was a 36 percent reduction in the disability workforce between March of 2020 and the last quarter of 2020 compared to a 5 percent reduction among workers without disabilities during the same period.  Additionally, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, between August and September 2020, over 800,000 women left the workforce due to COVID-19. That figure includes 324,000 Latinas and 58,000 Black women. For comparison, 216,000 men left the job market in the same time period.  As of May 2021, the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities is 34.2%.

In May 2021, in the context of a new Federal Administration, a new California Master Plan for Aging, and the joint desires of Governor Newsom, President Biden, and Vice President Harris to build a new economy with more diversity, equity and inclusion, we at Disability Rights California organized a Virtual Thought Leader Summit: Building Back Better for Diversity Equity and Inclusion: Transforming California’s Approach to Disability Employment. The participants included Federal, State and local government officials and staff from both the executive and legislative branch, disability community partners, researchers, business leaders, labor leaders, educators, funders, civil rights leaders, policy professionals, and others interested in the topic.  The Summit amplified existing best policies and practices to help California set an agenda for long-term economic capacity that promotes equitable and sustainable employment of all people with disabilities, addresses the needs of intersectional communities most impacted by COVID-19 and individuals with intellectual, developmental and other significant disabilities in the competitive labor force.

Coalition for the Employment of Californians with Disabilities Partners

DRC has secured the commitment to collaborate from California’s three University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at UCLA, USC and UC Davis and California Departments of Education, Rehabilitation, and Fair Employment and Housing, State Council on Developmental Disabilities, Sacramento Municipal Unitality District (SMUD), Regional Center of Orange County, Helix Opportunity Inc., and others.  We would like to collaborate with other business and labor organizations, self-advocate organizations, organizations focused on intersectional advocacy, and other potential partners.

If you are interested in partnering or would like to learn more, please connect with Connie Chu at