Washington, June 19 – When Gov. John Kasich discussed his plan to grow jobs, he not only listed the need to do so for the poor and minorities but also for people who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled.
“As we grow jobs, we leave no one behind,” Kasich said Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference. “If you are mentally ill, we’re not locking you up in prison if we can avoid it. We want to treat you and we want you to be on your feet with your God-given purpose.”
“Your working poor, we want you to get decent health care and guess what, we don’t want you to be poor; we want to graduate from poor. If you’re a minority, we’re going to include you. And we’re going to lift you. If you have a son or a daughter who’s autistic, you’re going to get insurance. We are not going to bankrupt you.”
Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. This leads to poverty and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disability benefits.
Governor John Kasich made Ohio an “Employment First” state by executive order, which resulted in an increase in individuals moving into competitive integrated employment. One of the best programs to help people with disabilities pursue the American Dream originated in Ohio—Project SEARCH. It has been able to successfully recruit, train and place thousands of people with disabilities into jobs in 43 states across the country. Project SEARCH is achieving a 70 percent success rate in transitioning students with disabilities into competitive, integrated employment. It is a win-win-win model for how to serve the interests of people with disabilities, employers and taxpayers as well.
While persistent stigmas remain an obstacle, evidence shows that people with disabilities can be highly successful workers. For example, Virgin Airways founder Sir Richard Branson and finance wizard Charles Schwab are dyslexic. Scientist Stephen Hawking, like Governor Abbott of Texas, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt before them, are wheelchair users. Author Christopher Nolan has cerebral palsy. He writes using a special computer and his work has been compared to that of Joyce, Keats, and Yates.
People who are blind, deaf or non-verbal frequently use assistive technology. Similarly, people with intellectual disabilities can benefit greatly from internship opportunities and job coaches. Nationally Walgreens, Starbucks, EY, AT&T, Sprint, TD Bank and other companies have seen that people with disabilities can be extremely capable and loyal workers. While there are few Stephen Hawking – with or without disabilities — people with disabilities can work in restaurants, tend our parks, assist aging seniors, and be super talents in developing computer software.
America has 56 million people with disabilities, more than 20 million of whom are working age. More than 50 percent of Americans report having a family member or close friend with a disability. Fifty-two percent of Democrats report that they or a loved one have a disability, and for Republicans, a smaller number of 44 percent report they have a disability. Surprisingly, Independents have the largest number of voters who say they have a disability, with 58 percent saying yes. This shows that swing voters with disabilities and their families are up for grabs.