MEPI Web Site

MEPI Background

In January 2011, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), within the U.S. Department of Labor, reported that the employment rate for individuals with disabilities was only 20.1%, less than one-third the 69.5% rate of individuals without disabilities. The purpose of the Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative (MEPI) is to close that gap in employment by facilitating dialogue and developing leadership on disability and employment policy to ensure that integrated competitive employment is widely recognized and routinely promoted as the preferred outcome of all Minnesotans with disabilities.

MEPI is a cross-disability initiative, building active, diverse partnerships which are critical to impacting measurable systems changes and success in achieving improvements in employment and economic opportunity goals. Since 2009, MEPI has engaged strategic partners from disability advocacy organizations, parent and family associations, local government agencies, state disability councils, human resources organizations, employment service providers, other disability and human services organizations, Centers for Independent Living, the University of Minnesota, secondary and postsecondary educational programs, and state agencies.

Together, MEPI and its partners have undertaken wide-ranging activities to bring together stakeholders to shape and advance public policy. Listening sessions convened during 2009 and 2010 were the basis for nine policy briefs identifying recommendations to improve competitive employment outcomes for Minnesotans with disabilities. The broad body of MEPI’s work and listening sessions are grounded around the core question, “What will it take to double employment of Minnesotans with disabilities by 2015?”

The Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative found there was substantial consistency across disability groups in the recommendations to double employment. These consistencies resulted in a consensus of recommendations summarized in the 2011 MEPI Final Report and indicate a common foundation for building an alliance for collaborative action to develop an action plan to champion the expectation that Minnesotans with disabilities will have the opportunity to work competitively.

In addition to the final report summarizing consensus recommendations across groups, the Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative has developed nine policy briefs in the following areas:

  • Brain Injury
  • Mental Health
  • DeafBlindness
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Blindness
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Physical Disabilities
  • Transition & Families

More than 200 individuals participated in listening session groups focused on employment and disability issues. They represented individuals and self-advocates with disabilities, family members, educators, postsecondary institutions, disability advocacy organizations, state and local government, employment services, community organizations and others.

Listening sessions were facilitated by MEPI and convened by the following host organizations which selected participants representing a variety of perspectives:

  • Brain Injury Association of Minnesota
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness - NAMI Minnesota
  • Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Network of Minnesota
  • Mental Health Association of Minnesota
  • Advisory Committee on DeafBlindness - State Services for the Blind
  • American Council of the Blind of Minnesota
  • National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Minnesota Chapter
  • Metropolitan Center for Independent Living
  • Autism Society of Minnesota
  • Advocating Change Together (ACT)
  • Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans
  • Minnesota Employment First Coalition

MEPI will continue its partnerships with organizations which hosted listening sessions and others to address the policy implications of improving employment outcomes and developing a more specific set of recommendations for action to move toward doubling the employment rate of Minnesotans with disabilities by 2015. MEPI and its partners will address the role of public policy in improving employment outcomes and also build grassroots support among individuals with disabilities and those who support them to make competitive employment an outcome that can be achieved by any Minnesotan with a disability who chooses to work.