Friday, May 4, 2012

Parlette named ‘Legislator of the Year’ for her support of individuals with disabilities

Yesterday The Community Employment Alliance named Sen. Linda Evans Parlette  its 2012 Legislator of the Year. The award was given for Parlette’s advocacy for individuals with developmental disabilities, and particularly her sponsorship of Senate Bill 6384, a measure that will help people with disabilities find and retain jobs. The measure passed the Legislature earlier this year and was signed into law March 19.  

Parlette, R-Wenatchee, received her award at the Community Employment Alliance luncheon today in Spokane, where she addressed members of the organization.

“The law we passed this year puts the focus on securing meaningful employment for disabled individuals, which makes a real difference to them and their families,” said Parlette. “It will also have a positive impact on their communities and the employers that hire them. It was a pleasure to work closely with individuals, employers and advocacy groups all across Washington to get this important legislation passed.”

AtWork!’s CEO, Chris Brandt, is President of the CEA and took the opportunity to personally thank the Senator for her efforts at the Spokane Awards Luncheon.

Parlette’s measure reinforces Washington’s employment-first policy for people with disabilities by:

  • Directing the state to work with counties and stakeholders to strengthen and expand existing community-access programs that integrate disabled people into their communities, as well as support independent living and skills.
  • Requiring that individuals 21 years of age and older be enrolled in supported employment for nine months, at which point they would be offered the choice of transitioning to community access programs. The House of Representatives amended the bill slightly to allow an exemption to this practice in some circumstances – a change Parlette believes improved upon the original bill, and one that was accepted by the Senate before it moved on to the governor to be signed into law. 

The Community Employment Alliance is a non-profit advocacy organization with a membership network of 50 businesses and employment service providers located across Washington. Its members provide services to more than 10,000 people with disabilities. The alliance’s mission is to advocate, educate and partner for employment opportunities for people with disabilities. 

Employment programs in Washington help people with developmental disabilities earn $40 million in wages each year. For every dollar invested there is a return to taxpayers of $1.46. To maintain federal matching dollars for these programs, Washington must continue in the same direction as the federal government, which is employment-focused. Parlette’s legislation takes the state in that direction.

“It was a tremendous honor to be recognized today with this award,” Parlette said. “This is one of the most meaningful and impactful pieces of legislation I’ve had the opportunity to sponsor during my time as a legislator. It’s partnerships like this that make doing this job such an honor!”

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Senate passes Parlette measure to help individuals with developmental disabilities attain employment

Yesterday was an historic day for people with disabilities. The Washington State Senate passed Senate Bill 6384, a measure that would help people with disabilities find and retain jobs.

Proposed by Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, SB 6384 would reinforce Washington's employment-first policy for people with disabilities. The bill requires that individuals be enrolled in supported employment for nine months, at which point they will be offered the choice of transitioning to community access programs. The measure that passed the Senate also directs the state to work with counties and stakeholders to strengthen and expand existing community access programs that integrate disabled people into their communities, as well as support independent living and skills.

"Washington has been a leader in pursuing a policy direction focused on giving individuals with disabilities the opportunity to work," said Parlette, R-Wenatchee. "We have supported this policy in the state budget for eight years. With this bill, it will be put formally into state law."

Employment programs in Washington help people with developmental disabilities earn $40 million in wages each year. This type of supported employment is a primary and vital service for people with developmental disabilities and their families. It is also self-sustaining; for every dollar invested there is a return to taxpayers of $1.46. To maintain federal matching dollars for these programs Washington must continue in the same direction as the federal government, which is employment-focused.

"This is one of the most important pieces of legislation I've sponsored during my time as a legislator," Parlette said. "The impact on the lives of these individuals and their families will be tremendous, and it's been a privilege to help."

AtWork! staff and self-advocates (people with disabilities supported by AtWork!) were in Olympia as part of a state-wide rally for Employment for All Day. Chris Brandt AtWork! CEO and President of the Community Employment Alliance, a state-wide advocacy organization of supported employment providers, introduced Senator Parlette to over 100 advocates and their supporters on the steps of the south portico in the Capital Building. Senator Parlette joined the rally as Andi Smith, Executive Policy Advisor to the Governor read a proclamation from Governor Gregiore declaring the day, Employment for All Day.

The people supported by AtWork!, the staff who support them and our fellow advocates and supporters across this great state were overwhelmed with the recognition they received. For people with disabilities who have to struggle to help others see their value as citizens, employees, and integral members of our communities…yesterday was a transformative event. We watched with tears of joy and pride as we heard Senator Parlette’s testimony and that of her colleagues, heard aye after aye as the employment first bill pass unanimously, and then received recognition as the Senator’s special guests.

Jobs bring status, respect, and dignity. Senator Parlette and the Senate gave all of this and more yesterday.

SB 6384 is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

AtWork! client featured in national ODEP video

AtWork! is thrilled to have one of our clients featured in a new video by the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) about integrated employment in Washington State.

Darwin Lagos and his employer, Dunn Lumber, were one of two Washington State employment success stories featured in the video as demonstrating the best of integrated employment for people with disabilities. Darwin has been an AtWork! client since 2002, and has worked for Dunn Lumber since shortly after entering services.

The video will be used as part of ODEP’s Integrated Employment Toolkit, which is featured on ODEP’s website and can be viewed here. According to ODEP’s website, “ODEP has developed this Integrated Employment Toolkit to provide valuable information as individuals, community employment agencies, policymakers and others pursue integrated employment as the desired employment goal for youth and adults with disabilities. The Toolkit includes practical and, in some cases, adaptable information and documents to facilitate the movement of states, organizations and, most importantly, youth and adults to integrated employment as their primary option for employment.

Washington State plays a significant part in the toolkit due to our state’s longstanding commitment to integrated employment and the success of the Working Age Adult Policy. In a recent national review of states, Washington led the way with over 67% of people served by the state's system of developmental disabilities in integrated employment.

AtWork! was offered the chance to participate in the video through our involvement with the Washington Initiative for Supported Employment. AtWork! placed 33 people in integrated employment last fiscal year and currently supports 87 people who are working, paying taxes and living more independently.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Each October, we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which recognizes the valuable contributions people with disabilities make to our workforce. Below, please read President Obama's proclamation declaring October, 2011 National Disability Employment Awareness Month.



Utilizing the talents of all Americans is essential for our Nation to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we recognize the skills that people with disabilities bring to our workforce, and we rededicate ourselves to improving employment opportunities in both the public and private sectors for those living with disabilities.

More than 20 years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with disabilities, including injured veterans, are making immeasurable contributions to workplaces across our country. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities remains too high -- nearly double the rate of people without disabilities -- and reversing this trend is crucial.

In both the public and private sectors, we can increase employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities. My Administration is promoting competitive, integrated employment for persons with disabilities and the elderly through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Last year, we also recommitted to making the Federal Government a model employer for people living with disabilities. Agencies are working harder than ever to promote equal hiring practices and increase retention, while also expanding internships, fellowships, and training opportunities.

We know education is the foundation on which all children can build bright and successful futures, and no child should be limited in his or her desire to learn. In September, we announced the final regulations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part C, to improve services and outcomes for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families during the critical years before kindergarten. The educational environments we are creating for children with disabilities will ensure they are better prepared to succeed in the classroom and later in the workplace, helping position our Nation to lead in the 21st century.

Work accessibility is just as vital to success as ensuring educational and hiring opportunities. Public transportation is a service that should be available to all Americans, and rules instated this year by the Department of Transportation require new rail construction or renovations to ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities. We are also improving our compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to make Federal agencies' electronic and information technology more accessible to individuals with disabilities. This will ensure all applicants have equal opportunity to apply for jobs, and it will allow Federal employees to better use technology at work.

To win the future, we must harness the power of our Nation's richest resource -- our people. Americans with disabilities, like all Americans, are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society. Their talents and contributions are vital to the strength of our Nation's workforce and our future prosperity. Together, we can ensure persons living with disabilities have equal access to employment, and to inclusive, supportive workplaces.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2011 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I urge all Americans to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities and to promote the right to equal employment opportunity for all people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Parlette receives award from national organization aimed at employing individuals with disabilities

OLYMPIA… ASPE, a national non-profit organization aimed at helping members of the disability community gain employment, has presented Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, with an award for preserving important options for the disabled in the state’s operating budget. Parlette accepted the award at a luncheon in Seattle during the group’s national conference.

This session the House of Representatives’ proposed budget included language that would have put developmentally disabled (DD) individuals at risk to lose other DD-related services if they chose to move from an employment service to an adult day-type service.

Representatives from the DD community contacted Parlette, who pulled together key groups involved in the issue, including DD representatives, budget writers and legislative staff. Working together, they were able to get language into final budget which ensures that vital employment-related options will be preserved for DD clients.

“When representatives of the developmentally disabled community came to me this year and expressed their concerns that an adult day program would not adequately meet the needs and potential of the developmentally disabled clients they represent, I knew we had to act quickly,” said Parlette. “It was very important to get language into the final budget that will help people with special needs reach their full potential and retain the options and services that will work best for them.”

APSE, founded in 1988 as the Association for Persons in Supported Employment, is the only national organization with an exclusive focus on integrated employment and career advancement opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The group’s members come from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, as well as several foreign countries.

Each year APSE recognizes individuals, businesses and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding practice and achievement in advancing integrated employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Marcie Taylor, Executive Director of Washington-based Community Employment Alliance, described Parlette’s work on the issue.

“She heard our concerns, thoughtfully considered all positions, sat down and drafted Senate budget language that preserved Supported Employment in Washington state, and defended it until it passed,” Taylor said.

Parlette’s APSE award reads:

“Special recognition award presented to Senator Linda Evans Parlette for exceptional public service and initiative in preserving the ability of people with disabilities to join the workforce and thus pursue the same sense of job satisfaction, belonging and accomplishment everyone desires.”

“I am so pleased that we were able to ensure that services for disabled individuals won’t be jeopardized because they want to choose another program that works best for them,” said Parlette. “This gives them the flexibility they need to reach their full potential.”

AtWork! CEO and staff were pleased to be present at the APSE award luncheon this week to say “thank you” to Senator Parlette. AtWork! supports people with developmental disabilities to reach their full potential through integrated employment. Senator Parlette was instrumental in preserving Washington State’s innovative and nationally recognized “employment first” policy. This policy, the funding to implement it, and the contributions of AtWork! supporters are dramatically changing the lives of citizens with disabilities every day. Thank you again, Senator Parlette, for recognizing the importance of employment and the dignity, status, and equality it brings to people with disabilities.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grow Your Gift to AtWork! With GiveBIG on June 23

If you have ever considered giving a gift to AtWork!, now is your chance to make the biggest impact with your dollars.

On June 23, 2011, AtWork! will be participating in an exciting event through The Seattle Foundation that will multiply your gift to us.

GiveBIG is a community-wide giving challenge that will increase the size of your donation to us. This new, one-day, online charitable giving event will rally together our community on behalf of the amazing nonprofit organizations in King County, including AtWork!.

GiveBIG will grow your generosity in two ways:
  • Grow your gift! The Seattle Foundation and local businesses will match a share of every contribution made through The Seattle Foundation's online Giving Center between 7 a.m. and midnight on June 23. The more donations we receive during that time window, the bigger our share of the matching dollars will be.
  • Win a Golden Ticket! During the day, you could be chosen at random to have AtWork! receive an additional $1,000 from GiveBIG’s sponsors.
We encourage you to join our supporters in giving big on June 23. Your gift will help support AtWork!’s mission of helping people with disabilities become productive, contributing, and integrated members of their communities. YOU can help a person with disabilities get a job. For every dollar AtWork! spends on supporting people with disabilities in jobs, $1.69 is returned back to the community in taxes paid and entitlements and other supports that are no longer needed. With GiveBig, your return on investment is significant!

Mark your calendar! Donate to AtWork! between 7 a.m. and midnight on June 23 through our page in The Seattle Foundation’s Giving Center:!.aspx

There are other ways you can help us make the most of GiveBIG! Here are a few things you can do in addition to making a generous gift:
  1. Mark your calendar today, so you don’t forget to make a gift to AtWork! on June 23!
  2. RSVP for GiveBIG on Facebook at If you do this, The Seattle Foundation will send you an email to remind you of the event to make sure that your gift arrives during the match window of 7am to midnight.
  3. Rally your friends to support AtWork! on June 23! Email, Facebook, Twitter (#GiveBIG), phone calls and even in-person conversations are great ways to spread the word and help us take advantage of GiveBIG. Be sure to share the link to our profile on The Seattle Foundation’s website!.aspx

Thank you in advance for giving big, and for encouraging your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. With your help AtWork! can continue to create mutually beneficial work relationships between people with disabilities and mainstream employers in the community.

PS: You can learn more about GiveBIG online at

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

AtWork! Works To Create A New Model Of Service Delivery

For decades people with disabilities have been denied access to real jobs, working for free in institutions or for sub-minimum wages in sheltered workshops. We failed to recognize the true contributions people with disabilities can make when given equal opportunity to do so. We did not understand that the desire to contribute exists in all of us.

Today, disability remains the best predictor of poverty. Our purpose is to change that reality. AtWork! changes a life of "being needy" to a life of being needed and valued. Jobs are a way out of poverty and isolation and make disability a predictor of a good and fulfilling life.

For the last 5 years AtWork! has worked to create a new model of service delivery that addresses our mission in a bold new way. Today, we are all about jobs and equal opportunity.

Jobs dramatically change people with disabilities. "Challenging" and "unacceptable" behaviors disappear, people who rarely or never speak engage others, pride replaces low self esteem, and respectability overcomes stigmatization.

As we do a better job of helping each generation of students with disabilities leave school with a job, younger families will have new hope and will firmly believe that regardless of the severity of the disability, work is a real possibility. Parents will start thinking about their children with disabilities differently - or rather the same - the same as they think about their other children; expecting that their sons and daughters will have a rewarding adult life lived outside the family home, working in the community, and enjoying full reciprocity in their relationships and activities. Parents like Helima will no longer need to worry as much about what the future holds.

As more people with disabilities work and we create diverse workplaces, society changes its views and begins to value its citizens with disabilities.

Diverse workplaces ensure economic vitality and long-term stability. We hope that more businesses will decide to capture the human and financial benefits of customized employment. We hope that all workplace cultures embrace the attitudes and values that employees with disabilities have proven to foster: teamwork, respect, courage, loyalty, pride, happiness, compassion, satisfaction.

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