As an advocate for individuals with disabilities, I welcome you to join me in celebrating the accomplishments of the men and women with disabilities in Wisconsin and nationwide. October marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which provides us with an opportunity to recognize the great value individuals with disabilities bring to our communities — as well as the joy, growth, and fulfillment they gain from having a job.
Many individuals with disabilities find employment at Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRPs). CRPs are often non-profit organizations who provide individuals with disabilities with jobs, along with the support they need to succeed in the workplace. They are great places to not only earn a paycheck and the dignity that comes with having a job, but they also provide an environment for those employed to interact with their peers and gain valuable social skills and friendships.
I have visited nearly every CRP in Wisconsin’s Sixth District, such as Lakeside Packaging in Oshkosh, Ascend Services in Manitowoc, Green Valley Enterprises in Beaver Dam, RCS Empowers in Sheboygan, Fox River Industries in Berlin, and Northwoods, Inc. in Portage. I’ve had the privilege to see their great workplaces, meet the dedicated employees, and speak with the individuals with disabilities who love working there.
My support for individuals with disabilities led me to meet Yael Kerzan, a young woman from the Sixth District who is an advocate for increased work opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Because Yael has a job at a CRP and a retail store, she understands that her peers want and deserve to have every employment option made available to them, and the right to choose employment that best fits their needs.
Yael was referred to a CRP 19 years ago by her local vocational rehabilitation agency. It has been invaluable for young people like Yael to have the choice and flexibility to work in a fulfilling job that provides them with work experience, financial compensation, friends, and the dignity they deserve as vital members of our communities.
Since then, however, the Department of Education issued a regulation and guidance that left local agencies confused, which has led many to no longer refer people like Yael to jobs in CRPs.
Together, Yael and I are working to fix these regulations and give people with disabilities the maximum flexibility and options when looking for a job that fits their needs and goals.
In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I am highlighting two pieces of legislation I have introduced that will help individuals with disabilities find the same happiness Yael has. The bills, the Workplace Choice and Flexibility for Individuals with Disabilities Act and the Restoration of Employment Choice for Adults with Disabilities Act, will expand work opportunities for these talented individuals by giving them more options to find meaningful, fulfilling career opportunities in their communities.
Now is the time to restore the full array of options available to these unique, valuable, hardworking individuals who so deserve it. I hope you’ll join me in advocating for their success.