Employment First

​​​​About​​ > Focus Areas >​ Employment First

Man in wheelchair using a computer with an assistive touch screen and a headset microphoneEmployment First is a concept to facilitate the full inclusion of people with the most significant disabilities in the workplace and community. Under the Employment First approach, community-based, integrated employment is the first option for employment services for youth and adults with significant disabilities.

The Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) is committed to enhancing community employment options for persons with developmental disabilities. The guiding principle of Employment First is that all individuals who want to work can work and contribute to their community when given opportunity, training, and supports that build upon their unique talents, sk​ills and abilities. Everyone of working age, and those supporting them, should consider employment as the first option prior to any other service options.  As fully participating members of their community, individuals with developmental disabilities will be afforded the opportunity to earn a living wage and engage in work that makes sense to them. Career exploration and planning will be supported when assisting individuals in making informed choices in designing their unique pathway to increased independence, integration, inclusion, productivity, and self-determination.

Employment Data in Maryland​: This website summarizes data collected at the individual level for people who receive employment or related day supports funded by the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration. Data on variables such as total wages or total hours of participation are for the two-week data collection interval.

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Principles of Employ​ment First

  • All individuals have the right to explore the full range of employment options to empower informed choice and foster self-determination.
  • Career Planning is a requirement for all individuals currently receiving services in order to ensure that supports, services, and outcomes on Individual Support Plans are consistent with what the person is seeking.
  • All individuals have the right to earn a living wage in a job of their choosing, based on their unique talents, gifts, skills, and interests.
  • As with all employees, persons with disabilities should have access to services and supports necessary to succeed in the workplace.
  • Businesses universally value employees with disabilities as an integral part of their workforce and include all people within recruitment and hiring efforts as standard practice.

Values of Employment First

  • All Marylander’s with developmental disabilities of working age (16-64): Work!
  • Realize economic self-sufficiency through;
    • Earning wages and benefits that are commensurate to the job and responsibilities,
    • The opportunity to save income and build assets, and
    • Continued access to healthcare and other necessary services, in order to achieve the highest quality of life possible;
  • Actively explore and develop their own unique career path;
  • Engage in the negotiation and terms of their employment;
  • Engage in all aspects of the work environment;
  • Build and maintain connections and relationships throughout their career path;
  • Have access to current information, resources and quality services to support their career paths

Videos & Webinars


Training R​esources

Customized E​​mployment


General on-line​​ learning modules


Person Centered Pla​nning

Dignity of R​​isk

Informed Decis​ion Making


Self Advo​cacy

CMS Fina​l Rule

Other Maryland​ State Agencies