Concord, NH, Dec. 23 – Ohio Gov. John Kasich called for full integration of people with disabilities during a town hall in Concord, NH, on Monday evening.
“The answer is real simple,” Kasich said when asked how people with disabilities can get out of the shadows and live the American Dream. “We should try to fully integrate people to the level of their ability. We’re doing that in Ohio now. We’re not going to ignore anybody. I mean we’re just not going to do that as a country. I don’t care who you are. We’re going to give you a chance to rise.”
The presidential hopeful said that we should get rid of congregate settings for employment.
“We shouldn’t take people and put them in a setting just because we’ve done it for the last 50 years,” he said at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. “People who have severe disabilities can work in hospitals and grocery stores and libraries.”
Kasich made Ohio an “Employment First” state by executive order, which resulted in an increase in individuals moving into competitive integrated employment. In 2014, 4,580 Ohioans with disabilities were able to find jobs through vocational rehabilitation services provided by the reformed and renamed Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). 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.
The Ohio governor touted this record as a job creator in his state.
“In Ohio, since I have been governor, we have now grown private sector employment,” Kasich said. “We are up 385,000 jobs in Ohio, over the period of these last five years.”
While there have been gains in jobs for people with disabilities, more work remains to be done in Ohio. There are 812,500 Ohioans with disabilities and, of that number, only 33.5 percent are employed. While additional funding by the General Assembly has eliminated all waiting lists for vocational rehabilitation services, much more work is needed in order to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities in the Buckeye State.
The progress being made in Ohio has been hampered by the fact that the state returned $18,215,538 to Washington. This hurts economic prospects for people with disabilities–especially the 50,300 Ohioans between the ages of 16 to 20–by not continuing to fund these vocational rehabilitation programs. State vocational rehabilitation programs operate by having the federal government give four dollars for every dollar that is spent by the individual state. However, if the states fail to spend the money or come up with matching funds, then the funds are returned to Washington, D.C.
At the end of his answer, Kasich added, “and we got to change attitudes.”
Today failed policies, stigmas and low expectations are leaving the real talent of millions of Americans on the sidelines. Fully 11 million Americans are living off of government disability payments. Real reforms that encourage work are needed.