January 19, 2012 Leave a comment
I felt ill and in disbelief when I read the recent article about a three-year-old girl with intellectual disabilities allegedly being denied a life-saving kidney transplant from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Because of her disability, this girl’s young life was not seen as having value and therefore she was not being given the right to live. Sadly, I have heard similar stories far more than I want to acknowledge.
You may be asking, “so what does this have to do with NEBA and employment?”
In my opinion, employment brings equality and improves the quality of one’s life. Working demonstrates intelligence, commitment and contribution. In addition to the monetary reward, working gives us purpose and defines who we are. Lastly, working brings opportunities to develop friendships and relationships, all of which bring value to our lives.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is alarming. Nationally, only 21% of individuals with disabilities are participating in the workforce, 16% of which are currently unemployed. 74% of individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities who are receiving services are in congregates or segregated programs. This leaves these individuals more vulnerable to public policy decisions, funding cuts, a chronic life of poverty, and in some cases not valued enough to have the right to live.
We can change these statistics, but we need to act now. Legislators need to stop funding segregated models of service and use funds to assist more individuals enter the workforce on their own terms and become contributing, equal members of their communities. Employment First models need to be adhered to, providers need to be diligent and not be satisfied developing jobs that offer minimal hours, and individuals and their families need to be educated about their choices and how employment can make a difference in improving the quality of their lives.
- Jeannine Pavlak, Executive Director, NEBA