Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Nov. 7 – Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has won re-election, defeating Republican challenger Scott Wagner for Pennsylvania’s governorship.
Recently Wolf affirmed his commitments on jobs for Pennsylvanians with disabilities in a proclamation sent to RespectAbility in October in honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month. RespectAbility is a nonpartisan, nonprofit national organization working to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.
“Workplaces that welcome the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy,” wrote Wolf in his proclamation. “This month will reinforce the value and talent people with disabilities add to our workplace and communities and affirm Pennsylvania’s commitment to be an inclusive community.”
This proclamation comes after a year of steady job growth for people with disabilities. Last year, 6,993 Pennsylvanians with disabilities got new jobs.In total, there are 909,897 working-age people with disabilities living in Pennsylvania. That total includes people who are blind or deaf or have other visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, as well as people with invisible disabilities including learning disabilities, mental health or Autism. Among them, 323,354 have jobs, giving the state a 35.5 percent disability employment rate. Pennsylvania ranks 31st compared to the rest of the country.
Over the past few years, Wolf has become a true champion on jobs for people with disabilities. In 2016 he signed an executive order declaring that Pennsylvania would be an Employment First state. The order itself states: “Workers with a disability add value to the workplace…they can be dedicated, loyal, and productive members of a team and can improve a company’s bottom line.” That order was followed by new laws signed this year to fully delivery on the promise of more jobs for more Pennsylvanians with disabilities. He even has committed his state government to becoming a model employer by offering internships for students with disabilities.
Likewise, Pennsylvania is also home to innovative programs for people with disabilities. Located in Bryn Mawr, JCHAI is a multi-faceted organization with cutting-edge inclusive, supportive vocational programs and living options for people with a range of disabilities.
Across the state Project SEARCH offers school-to-work opportunities for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities to enter the competitive workforce. Project SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. From serving seniors to opening pathways into healthcare careers, these opportunities are having transformative impacts on the lives of young people with disabilities. In diverse places such as UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, Wellspan Hospital in Gettysburg, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown and at Drexel University, young Pennsylvanians with disabilities are receiving the training, experience and skills they need to succeed.
Also in Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., who responded to RespectAbility’s candidate questionnaire, won his re-election for a U.S. Senate seat.
Lauren Appelbaum is the Communications Director of RespectAbility and the Managing Editor of The RespectAbility Report. She is a native of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.