Jul 14, 2016 / Disabilities

McMorris Rodgers, Van Hollen Introduce Bill to Expand Inclusive Employment Opportunities for Americans with Disabilities

Today Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the Transition to Independence Act, joined by a bipartisan group of colleagues. The legislation will help states move people with disabilities out of segregated work settings and into competitive, integrated employment.

“In America, you are not defined by where you come from,” said McMorris Rodgers. “Despite this, real and perceived barriers are limiting men and women with disabilities from pursuing their unique version of the American Dreams, including being independent, having a job, and being seen as a contributing member of society. As we enter this 21st Century battleground, our legislation will help individuals see the ability, not the disability, and empower those with disabilities to seek meaningful and competitive employment opportunities.”

“Employment isn’t just a way to earn a living; it is often a vital component of feeling independent, productive, and happy,” said Van Hollen. “Every person deserves the opportunity to participate in competitive employment, but people with disabilities still face segregated work environments that too often pay low wages and lack the integration that helps workers build skills and advance their careers. This legislation will help level the playing field for workers with disabilities and make sure every American has the chance to get ahead and reach their full potential.”

Original co-sponsors of the legislation include Representatives Pete Sessions (R-TX), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Bill Foster (D-IL), and Don Beyer (D-VA).

The Transition to Independence Act would provide bonuses to states that move people with disabilities out of segregated settings and into competitive employment and/or integrated day habilitation services. States would also be rewarded for no longer giving money to segregated or subminimum wage work programs, for taking steps to develop the state’s workforce of people with disabilities, and for stopping new placements of people with disabilities in segregated employment settings.

Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, said, “The Transition to Independence Act represents a serious step forward in welcoming and including people with disabilities into the workforce. By making targeted investments in select states that expand integrated employment and integrated meaningful day services, this legislation will help to dramatically improve federal policy with respect to workers with disabilities.”

Ne’eman continued, “The Autistic Self Advocacy Network applauds Representative Van Hollen, Representative McMorris Rodgers and the other House co-sponsors for their leadership on this critical issue. Working in concert with Senators Grassley, Wyden and Casey in the Senate, we are confident that this bi-partisan investment in modernizing our nation’s disability policy will have a significant impact. People with disabilities have the right to be included in all sectors of society – this legislation will help make that happen.”

Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy for The Arc, said, “This bill would ensure that any individual impacted by the closing of a segregated setting, would have access to community employment and integrated day services. The Arc is happy to see Congress taking action to support states to advance integrated employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Jorwic continued, ”This is a topic of great importance to the disability community and The Arc is grateful to Representatives Van Hollen, McMorris Rodgers, and the co-sponsors of this legislation. We are confident that if passed this bill can help change the landscape of employment opportunities for people with disabilities across our country and move us towards a more inclusive society.”