Disability Advocates Present the Future of Work to Congress
Special Olympics, SourceAmerica, The Viscardi Center and disability self-advocate panelists share insight
WASHINGTON – In a joint effort to improve lawmakers' understanding of issues affecting the disability community, Special Olympics, SourceAmerica and The Viscardi Center are meeting with members of Congress for a Nov. 2 panel discussion. The groups are calling on Congress and supporters to join their ongoing effort to build an inclusion economy – one that recognizes the talents and potential of people with disabilities.
The event, Expanding Integrated, Meaningful Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities in the New Economy, is hosted by Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. The discussion focuses on the challenges and potential for growth for people with disabilities in the workplace.
Panelists with expertise on a range of disability issues are sharing their insights with members from across the country and across party lines. They include: Mary Davis, CEO of Special Olympics International; Steve Soroka, president and CEO of SourceAmerica; John D. Kemp, president and CEO of The Viscardi Center; and Ty Ross, self-advocate and graduate of the Pathways to Careers program from SourceAmerica.
"Employment is an important and satisfying part of life for most people, and people with intellectual disability are no different," Davis said. "Now is the time for us to open the doors of opportunity for our citizens with intellectual disabilities so they can show the world that they are productive and contributing members of society."
SourceAmerica's CEO agreed.
"As a national nonprofit with a network of agencies employing people with disabilities, we fill a critical need by connecting businesses and government to this often-overlooked talent pool," Soroka said. "But there is a huge void to fill – an estimated 80 percent of people with disabilities are not in the workforce. We must work together with Congress to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities nationwide."
It's all part of creating a better life experience overall, Kemp said.
"Young disabled people want very much to see themselves as having a meaningful, worthwhile future; one with work as a liberating force, but enhanced by social, cultural and learning experiences," Kemp said.
For Ross, the experience of a supportive internship through Pathways has led to a productive career.
"I never feel left out. I'm included in everything. I have new friendships that will last a lifetime," Ross said. "And most importantly, I'm making a difference. The websites I help fix as an ADA auditor are more accessible to students, parents and employees so that they can access critical information without barriers."