INDIANAPOLIS— Lyrics from the song “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang were heard at the Statehouse on Thursday, heralding legislation that will help people with disabilities obtain jobs.
The Indiana Chapter of the Association of People Supporting Employment First celebrated the legislation law that creates more jobs for people with disabilities by promoting policies that lead to employment.
Members from the Indiana Chapter of the Association of People Supporting Employment First celebrated a new law that promotes competitive employment for people with disabilities. Photo by Ashley Steeb, TheStatehouseFile.com
“I want you to think about how having a job makes you feel,” said Betty Williams, of Self-Advocates of Indiana, an affiliate of the Employment First group. “Having a job means you have a reason to get up in the morning.”
Williams said her job as an advocate gives her self-esteem, allows her to make life-long friends and be independent.
Senate Bill 390 was crafted to promote competitive employment for working-age Hoosiers with a disability. The bill also makes changes to the Commission on Rehabilitation Services by increasing their number of members and requiring Gov. Eric Holcomb to set the members’ term of office.
“We have a talented group of job seekers that want to work,” said Kylee Hope, the director of the Division on Disability and Rehabilitative Services. “Work should not be considered just a privilege for individuals that happen to have disabilities.”
Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, speaks at an event celebrating a bill becoming law that promotes competitive employment for people with disabilities. Photo by Ashley Steeb, TheStatehouseFile.com
The employment group worked with Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, for three years to pass a bill concerning this issue. Stoops said during the process he discovered the unemployment rate for people with a disability is high. The rate in 2015 was 10.7 percent, about twice the rate for people who are not disabled, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“One of the things that was important about this bill is that it was also the opportunity to educate lawmakers about the importance of a bill like this,” Stoops said.
Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, joined as a co-author of the bill because he has seen first-hand the need for the legislation. In 2011 his son became a quadriplegic. Also, his son’s daily interaction with another quadriplegic patient helped him see the value of the bill.
“Every day we would go in to talk to him,” Ruckelshaus said. “And, we would talk about the future. He was scared about the future because in his mind he had a very limited future.”
Ruckelshaus said the bill is only the starting point for the future and everyone involved needs to continue pushing for change.
Ashley Steeb is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.