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How to turn a disability into an ability



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December 10, 2013 | 01:53 PM
Living with a disability is challenging and often misunderstood.

The severity and type of disability can vary widely, such as loss of vision, loss of hearing, a mental health illness or even a developmental or cognitive disability.

For those living with a disability, simple ordinary tasks can be a struggle.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a ‘Take Your Legislator to Work Day’ event, my second year of doing so. This year, I spent time working side by side at the Piggly Wiggly store in Lake Geneva with a young man with Down’s Syndrome who works at a local grocery store. It was an honor to work with him and see what his typical day is like. I was also impressed with the local business providing stable, fulfilling work to those with disabilities and creating an environment of acceptance, independence and fulfillment for a hard day’s work.

The event was organized by the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities to highlight how businesses employing disabled individuals can provide the education and training needed to succeed in life. These jobs allow people with disabilities to earn money, make friends, work with the public, enhance their work environment and create a more inclusive and accepting community. Recognizing that, a number of worker training bills recently passed the Legislature that include $8.8 million for training and apprenticeship programs to pull in an additional $15.5 million in new federal funds for vocational rehabilitation programs designed to help people with disabilities enter the workforce.

Senate Bill 274, one of those worker training bills, provides the necessary state funds to capture the total estimated federal matching funds available for vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. The Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Program helps unemployed disabled people receive training in order to attain or keep a job. Across the state, DVR offices provide a wide range of services, including career guidance and counseling, job search and placement assistance, transition to work services for students with disabilities, rehabilitation technology, and vocational training.

More information about the DVR program can be found on-line at www.dwd.wisconsin.gov/dvr.

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Anyone living with a disability or those caring for an individual with a disability may be interested in the Wisconsin Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). For more information on ADRCs, visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/adrc.

Wisconsin residents with disabilities have talents, skills and often the desire to make a contribution in the workplace. Legislative efforts are on-going to make it easier for them to find employment. There are employers across the state who have opened their doors to people of all abilities and skill levels. By turning a disability into an ability, we are creating a better Wisconsin for all.

Senator Kedzie can be reached in Madison by calling toll-free 1 (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com.

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