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Colorado Governor Hickenlooper signs disability employment legislation

Colorado Governor Hickenlooper signs disability employment legislation

By Nicholas.Galbraith

Bill set to empower individuals with disabilities to enter labor market

On the morning of June 10th 2016, Governor John Hickenlooper signed bill SB16-077, Employment First for People with Disabilities, into law after receiving overwhelming support in both chambers of the General Assembly.

June 14, 2016

On the morning of June 10th 2016, Governor John Hickenlooper signed bill SB16-077, Employment First for People with Disabilities, into law after receiving overwhelming support in both chambers of the General Assembly.

The bill, sponsored by Colorado State Senator John Kefalas and Representatives Joann Ginal and Dianne Primavera, aims to increase the number of individuals with disabilities, including significant disabilities, who are employed in Colorado.

The legislation includes a major victory for the disability community, the Employment First Advisory Partnership. Made up of multiple state agencies and various stakeholders, the Partnership will examine the barriers between individuals with disabilities and employment, and will suggest solutions to these barriers in a strategic plan. This strategic plan is critical to ensure that a comprehensive approach is taken to expanding employment opportunities for all individuals with disabilities, including individuals with significant disabilities.

“Being employed is critical to being a part of the community,” said Marijo Rymer, Executive Director of The Arc of Colorado. “However, a variety of barriers can stand between a person with a disability and a job.”

About 80 percent of individuals with disabilities and 85 percent of individuals with significant disabilities in the State of Colorado are not currently working. “Colorado has a very low unemployment rate, so increasing the number of individuals with disabilities who are working is achievable,” added Rymer.

The legislation aims to support many different disabilities, including autism. Estimates suggest that there are more than 14,244 children in the state of Colorado with autism. Many of these children will continue to need some type of services or supports as they transition to adulthood.

“We applaud the passage of Colorado’s Employment First legislation to empower the unique strengths of many individuals with disabilities, including those with autism,” said Leslie Long, vice president of adult services at Autism Speaks. “Fully funding individualized employment support services is critical for every Coloradan to reach their employment potential.”

Throughout the legislative session, numerous individuals and families shared their story with lawmakers and asked for support of the bill. “Without these phone calls and emails, many lawmakers just were not aware of how difficult it can be for a person with a disability to find a job,” says Marilee Boylan, Executive Director of The Arc of Larimer County. “It’s been a long road getting to this point and we were thrilled to see so many people get involved.”

One self-advocate was Connor Long who shared his story with lawmakers. “We don’t need sympathy and pity; we need respect and opportunity,” said Mr. Long on the new law that shifts policy to ensure that every person with a disability has an opportunity to obtain employment.

The bill signing was attended by many of those stakeholders, including self-advocates who testified at various hearings for the bill.

Add your name here to tell lawmakers that empowering individuals with autism in the workforce is a priority for our community.

Source:: Autism Advocacy

      

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