Friday, September 28th , marked an important day in Ohio. It was the National Forum on Disabilities. Sadly, President Obama and Mitt Romney chose to miss the event. Jeff D. Gorman of the Mobility Resource wrote Surrogates Take Podium at National Forum on Disabilities Neither President Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney attended the forum, but Ted Kennedy Jr. and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) represented the candidates. John McCain had appeared four years earlier via satellite at the first forum.
There is certainly a method to the madness of politics. The squeaky wheel gets attention and perhaps the wheel was not getting greased enough in the arena of war veterans and people with disabilities. Furthermore, the staggering numbers of 1 in 88 children diagnosed with autism received peripheral mention during the 3 hour event.
What is wrong with this picture!
Yes, they fed a taped speech from President Obama: “You are part of the tradition of diversity of who we are as a country,” the president said.“We need to work to increase employment opportunities, housing and community support. Many attendees replied that their fervent hope was that next time the candidates would attend this forum in person.
Stephanie Deible, who is Miss Wheelchair Michigan and attended the forum, agreed.
“I enjoyed it, but I’m disappointed that the candidates couldn’t make time to be there,” she said. “They were both in the state this week; I can’t see why they couldn’t make time since it was scheduled on Friday.” Good point Stephanie!
“I would have liked to hear them talk more about employment opportunities,” Deible added, since it’s such a big problem in this country, especially in the disabled community.”
Ms. Rodgers talked about Walgreen, by exemplar, who created work opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Aging and autism is a tenuous journey.
Four years ago, I was preparing dinner while listening to the news. When I heard NBC’s Brian Williams I stopped, and noted that history might actually be taking place. It was a story of pride and hope. Randy Lewis, Vice President of Walgreen had implemented a work force that hopefully would change the face of employment for those with disabilities. Mr. Lewis, prompted by concerns for his son Austin, diagnosed with autism, recognized the vacuum in the arena of jobs for adults with disabilities. He devoted a Walgreen Distribution Center in Anderson, South Carolina to hiring workers with developmental disabilities. Mr. Lewis said that “Austin’s gift to me was to look past the disability and see the person”.
The irony here is that this particular distribution center is 20% more efficient than all others in the Walgreen Company, and it is staffed by more than 40% disabled individuals. The building is designed with touch screens and flexible work stations. Randy Lewis’s model of “same pay, same job, same performance” would hopefully have been a prototype for future companies.
The most compelling emotion that Mr. Lewis shared was the burning question that we as parents can identify with: “What would happen after I’m gone…could I live that one day longer than my child?” It was answered by a mother in the interview: “I don’t have to have that worry anymore…as long as he does his job; he’ll have a home at Walgreen.”
Hello! Is anybody listening? Are the candidates listening?
It was announced last year that The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing a new rule that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to set a hiring goal of having 7 percent of their workforce be people with disabilities, among other requirements.