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South Dakota disabilities panel eyes ways to help

PIERRE -- Getting more people with disabilities into paying jobs in South Dakota will require better information to individuals and their families.

It will also require better community transportation, more Internet access, more assistive technology, broader knowledge of the possibilities for businesses and workers alike, and possibly financial incentives through worker-compensation insurance rates, members of the state task force on disabilities employment said Monday.

The panel met for the third and possibly final time, with its report to Gov. Dennis Daugaard planned to be final in late October. The report is being assembled by state government staff and will be distributed in draft form via email to the task force participants. Their responses will be made by email, with the final report to be posted on a website later this fall.

"The work of everyone here is not done. It's just started," said one of the members, state Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls.

Among other specific recommendations under consideration are a business-led program to encourage other businesses to hire people with disabilities, offering cultural-competency training on a continuing basis for people working in disabilities-assistance programs and expanding the availability of financial benefit specialists to work with people with disabilities and their families.

Two overall goals are to create expectations among people with disabilities that work is a possibility and aim for outcomes that support employment, said Laurie Gill, who chairs the task force. She is state commissioner of human resources and the mayor of Pierre.

"This is a document that is going to be living and breathing and moving. So we're not done with it," Gill said.

Ideally, every person with a disability who wants to work should have an individual employment plan similar to the individual education plans required in schools, said Alan Solano of Behavior Management Systems, of Rapid City. "It gets to all phases of it," he said.

If another meeting is necessary, it will be Oct. 18, Gill said.