Employment First

What is Employment First?

Watch this 3-minute animation about what Employment First means to an individual with disabilities, families, schools, state agencies, employment providers and employers.

Legislation & Policy

Engaging Legislation creates social, political, and economic change for people with disabilities while removing systemic barriers to achieve Employment First. Arizona APSE focuses on two primary strategies: Advocating for Employment First Legislation & Eliminating Subminimum Wage.

Advocating for Employment First Legislation


In 2017, Governor Doug Ducey declared Arizona an Employment First state by signing an executive order. The intent of the executive order was to direct funders of employment services for people with disabilities to implement Employment First into their standards of practice. However, no official Employment First policy based on legislation has been implemented. Employment First initiatives were underway but in recent years . . . have died out.

Arizona APSE has prioritized putting Employment First into action.

Infographic showing people with disabilities are more unemployed than those without disabilities in Arizona

Eliminating Subminimum Wage

In Arizona, center based employment (CBE) is funded by the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and is described as "controlled and protected work environment." This is a nearly century-old law that allows employers to pay individuals with disabilities far less than the hourly minimum wage. Arizona APSE considers this service to be a "sheltered workshop," and it does not meet our definition of employment. As of April 2022, there are forty-one (41) CBE providers in Arizona.

Our vision is for all Arizonans to obtain and maintain gainful employment in the community at a fair wage. We know that workers with disabilities, given equal opportunity and appropriate supports, can perform as well as people without disabilities. It is long past time to take this fair, commonsense step for Arizonans with disabilities. We advocate for competitive integrated employment (CIE) to be the outcome for all Arizonans including those with disabilities, so they can have the financial freedom and security we all desire.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah shared about the subminimum wage disability pay loophole on his “If You Don’t Know, Now You Know” segment in October 2021.

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