Testimony of RespectAbilityUSA

Today I am testifying to the United States Department of Labor on key factors regarding how the new WIOA law is implemented to expand jobs for people with disabilities. Given that these discussions can impact $17 BILLION a year of how our tax money impacts workforce development, it is vital to use best practices. Please see my summary statement below and the two very important attachments. Together we can really create progress which can reduce poverty and make our country stronger.

Thanks!

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
President, RespectAbility


Testimony of Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
President, RespectAbilityUSA
United States Department of Labor
Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities
Contact: JenniferM@RespectAbilityUSA.org
January 23, 2015
Honorable Committee,

Thank you for your leadership on expanding opportunities for people with disabilities through the successful implementation of WIOA.

I am dyslexic and really could not read or write until I was 12. I also was hit by a car before the Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus am deeply mindful of the advances made through the ADA. I am also a proud parent who knows what it means to raise a child with multiple disabilities and have several other loved ones with disabilities.

I am here as President of RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization working to enable people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. We know that people with disabilities deserve to be able to work to achieve the American dream, just like anyone else.

Our goal is to ensure that each state puts forward and implements an excellent unified plan, based on best practices, that will create the most integrated job opportunities with competitive wages for people with disabilities, while meeting the talent needs of employers.

Thus, RespectAbility, in conjunction with Best Buddies, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and National Organization on Disability (NOD) have created our “Disability Employment First Planning Tool”, which is included in our testimony.  Most of the recommendations are from proven best practices, and the rest are emerging promising practices. The tool is to be a resource for you and for states, workforce development boards and agencies.  It is organized around the key recommendations from the National Governors Associations report A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities’. Indeed, we believe these can really help each state. The key areas are:

  • Making the best of limited resources
  • Finding and supporting businesses in their efforts to employ people with disabilities
  • Making disability employment a part of the state workforce strategy
  • Preparing youth with disabilities for careers that use their full potential, and providing employers with a pipeline of skilled workers
  • Being a model employer by increasing the number of people with disabilities working in state government

We have also combined relevant statistics, planning data, and other information for each state. The highlights of that material are in our full testimony as well.

 

So far, we have met with 33 Governors on this issue. The efforts of Governors Jack Markell (DE), Scott Walker (WI) and many others have been stellar. We look forward to working with you as well. In the meantime, however, I would like to highlight some key points.

First, stigma is a real barrier and you need real plans and actions to reduce these barriers. We have provided some information on that from public opinion research and scientific studies.

Second, barriers caused by stigmas will be broken if you use what we refer to as the “Jacky Robinson Strategy”. Jacky Robinson was a fantastic baseball player and an all around good guy. When he became the first African American to play major league baseball he tore down decades of discrimination. He was great at his job. He won games and was a good person in the process. That is how we, in the disability community, can also break down barriers. We can do it by being the talent that employers need, and the people that others will be proud to call co-workers and friends. And, that takes effort and strategic focus.

I invite you to get to know the state data we have shared with you in order to better understand the talent pipeline and performance metrics. This is in our testimony.

I also want to encourage you to pay special attention to Project SEARCH. Because with 243 sites around the country and average competitive integrated employment outcomes of approximately 70% – Project SEARCH and programs like it can and should be replicated widely.

Thank you again for your leadership and your efforts for people with disabilities. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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