October marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which recognizes the importance of a workforce that is inclusive and accommodating for individuals who live with disabilities. Across the country, numerous organizations do terrific work that helps these Americans make meaningful and valuable contributions in the workplace.
Take VisionCorps in Lancaster, Pa., which for more than 90 years has helped blind and vision-impaired Pennsylvanians find meaningful and rewarding employment. At any given time, more than 100 individuals are employed by VisionCorps in a variety of industries. I’ve seen firsthand the work they do to educate and empower people who face the challenges of disability.
There’s more that can be done to help individuals with disabilities thrive in the workplace, and Republicans in the House have a plan to do it. We’ve put forward a comprehensive plan, A Better Way, to reduce poverty and create opportunity for individuals with disabilities. We do it through improving and streamlining job training programs. And we’re strengthening the tools that bring financial security to people with disabilities and their families.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), for example, ensures that individuals with disabilities have access to job skills training and meaningful work opportunities. It requires states to dedicate a portion of federal funding to services that help individuals with disabilities transition from school to work and independent living.
In 2014, Congress took an important step that will ease the strain on families of Americans with disabilities with passage of Rep. Ander Crenshaw’s Achieving a Better Life Experiece (ABLE) Act. The bill will make care more affordable by allowing families to save tax-free and use those dollars on qualified expenses like education, employment training and support, and assistive technology. Similar to “529” college savings accounts, families now have a tax-free way to save for expenses associated with the care of individuals with disabilities.
Building on the ABLE Act, my colleagues have introduced the ABLE to Work Act, which allows an individual with disabilities to contribute his or her own earnings to an ABLE account in addition to the $14,000 cap on annual contributions from others.
Statistics say Americans with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those without, and they’re more likely to hold part-time work instead of full-time jobs. Just like every other American, individuals with disabilities have tremendous promise and potential. They can make great contributions in the workplace. And through the policies outlined in A Better Way, House Republicans are committed to helping them do it.