Disability Advocates Present the Future of Work to Congress

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Special Olympics, SourceAmerica, The Viscardi Center and disability self-advocate panelists share insight on issues affecting people with disabilities.

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"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.” -- Steve Soroka

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 will focus 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 to Careers 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.”

For more information, visit http://www.sourceamerica.org, http://www.specialolympics.org or http://www.viscardicenter.org.

About SourceAmerica
Established in 1974, SourceAmerica creates job opportunities for a skilled and dedicated workforce of people with significant disabilities. SourceAmerica is the vital link between the federal government and private sector organizations that procure the products and services provided by this exceptional workforce via a network of more than 700 community-based nonprofits. Headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, SourceAmerica provides its nonprofit agency network with business development, contract management, legislative and regulatory assistance, communications and public relations materials, information technology support, engineering and technical assistance, and extensive professional training needed for successful nonprofit management. SourceAmerica is an AbilityOne-authorized enterprise.

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice, and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.6 million athletes and Unified partners in 172 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by many individuals, foundations, and partners.

About The Viscardi Center
Founded by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents and became one of the world’s leading advocates, The Viscardi Center educates, employs and empowers people with disabilities. It provides Kindergarten through High School education (up to age 21), school-to-work youth transition services, vocational training, career counseling and employment placement, assistive technology, and adapted driver education to children, adolescents and adults with a wide variety of disabilities. The Center also assists businesses in diversifying their workforces, as well as developing and advancing disability inclusive cultures in their workplaces.

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Kerry McGinley
since: 05/2012
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