Former President George H.W. Bush signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act into law on July 26, 1990, reshaping American civil rights to also outlaw discrimination based on disability.

Employing people with disabilities is now viewed not only as a civil right, but also as vital to state workforces and the economy.

Arkansas lands chief among the 2017 U.S. News Best States ranking for disability employment, based on an analysis of each state’s gap in the unemployment rate. That gap is calculated as the ratio of people in the labor force with a disability over people in the labor force without a disability. The ranking is part of U.S. News’ larger Best States for Equality ranking, which includes additional factors such as education, race and gender equality.

Arkansas is home to Arkansas Employment First – a state-backed group formed to begin a “long-range planning to support a culture change where people with disabilities are recognized for the contributions and capabilities they have to offer.” The program is similar to other states’ Employment First initiatives. Arkansas is one of at least 33 states that has a policy directive, executive order, official statement or legislation related to the Employment First state-level policy, according to the group.

Nevada and Mississippi follow the Bear State in ranking second and third for disability employment, respectively. Conversely, while Maine is the No. 1 Best State for Equality, its gap in the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is higher than in any other state.

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These are the 10 best states for disability employment:

State Disability Employment Rate Rank Overall Equality Rank Overall Best States Rank
Arkansas Disability Employment Rate Rank: 1 Overall Equality Rank: 32 Overall Best States Rank: 48
Nevada Disability Employment Rate Rank: 2 Overall Equality Rank: 33 Overall Best States Rank: 40
Mississippi Disability Employment Rate Rank: 3 Overall Equality Rank: 38 Overall Best States Rank: 49
West Virginia Disability Employment Rate Rank: 4 Overall Equality Rank: 3 Overall Best States Rank: 41
Wyoming Disability Employment Rate Rank: 5 Overall Equality Rank: 29 Overall Best States Rank: 26
Oklahoma Disability Employment Rate Rank: 6 Overall Equality Rank: 35 Overall Best States Rank: 44
California Disability Employment Rate Rank: 7 Overall Equality Rank: 16 Overall Best States Rank: 23
New Mexico Disability Employment Rate Rank: 8 Overall Equality Rank: 23 Overall Best States Rank: 46
Rhode Island Disability Employment Rate Rank: 9 Overall Equality Rank: 25 Overall Best States Rank: 21
Oregon Disability Employment Rate Rank: 10 Overall Equality Rank: 10 Overall Best States Rank: 19


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