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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posted by AtWork! at


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