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In sports, being No. 4 might not be so satisfying. But Nebraska as a state can be proud of a recently announced No. 4 ranking.

Nebraska’s employment rate for individuals with disabilities, 49.3 percent, was better than all but three other states (the Dakotas and Utah). Nebraska had 112,418 Nebraskans, ages 18 to 64, with disabilities. Of those, 55,391 had jobs, reported RespectAbility, a nonprofit group focusing on disability issues. The report analyzed 2017 data.

Nationwide, more than 56 million Americans have a mental or physical impairment, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Helping those individuals find employment opportunities is a win-win all around — it boosts the person’s sense of self-worth and their ability to live up to their full potential, and it helps our economy benefit from the talents of productive workers.

The employment achievement in Nebraska stems from hard work by individual Nebraskans and commendable efforts by state government, nonprofits, businesses and schools.

Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation, a state program, has “worked hard to screen and prepare job seekers with disabilities,” the report says, “by identifying their strengths, addressing their weaknesses and matching them with appropriate jobs.” The report credits Gov. Pete Ricketts for focusing attention on boosting disability employment.

A Nebraska partnership known as ProjectSEARCH, involving schools, nonprofits, businesses and government, has proved especially fruitful, according to the report. Students in their final year of high school learn employability skills at a host business and participate in a variety of work experiences.

More than 3,000 students have participated in the program, and 78 percent of the participants subsequently found employment.

Seventeen businesses and nonprofits participate in ProjectSEARCH, in locations from Omaha in the east to North Platte in the west and South Sioux City in the north.

Boosting job opportunities for individuals with disabilities means an enriched life for workers and a sounder economy for Nebraska. That’s a great goal worth promoting.

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