PENNLIVE, May 18, 2016—Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday signed into law the #IWantToWork campaign’s signature legislation to ensure young people with disabilities are prepared for work after they finish high school.
With the #IWantToWork team looking on, the governor signed House Bill 400 during a Capitol ceremony, according to a news release sent out afterward. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Cleona, was approved unanimously in both the House and the Senate. Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, championed the bill in the Senate. Both women chair their respective chambers’ committees on Labor and Industry.
“This is a big deal for the tens of thousands of young people with disabilities who attend high school in Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Josie Badger, campaign manager for the #IWantToWork campaign. “This will enable these deserving young people to get the real world work experience they need to prepare for life after school and to live fulfilling, independent lives.”
The #IWantToWork team’s social media campaign used Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to produce hundreds of selfies and tens of thousands of Internet contacts to legislators advocating for the change.
Specifically, the legislation changes processes within the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) to ensure high school students with disabilities begin getting services earlier in high school. Before this bill, most of these students had little or no contact with OVR before their final six months in high school. The new law directs OVR to work with employers to find part-time and summer jobs for students with disabilities.
Said Gingrich: “Currently, services for high school students with disabilities end upon graduation or as they ‘age out’ of the education support systems. This deprives them of the opportunity to become independent and productive, taxpaying citizens. My bill will require OVR to help prepare students for internships, on-the-job-training and employment in an integrated work environment that will give them the skills necessary to enter or remain in the workforce upon graduation. It would also provide placement assistance and job coaching.
“The new law will open doors and help students with disabilities to achieve the dignity of work,” she added. “I have had the pleasure of meeting many students with disabilities from around the Commonwealth, and have worked with the organizations that represent and support them. These students are individuals who are working to overcome physical and/or mental challenges, and many have exhibited both the ability and desire to work. I am pleased that they now have the opportunity to do so.”
In addition to passing the legislation, the #IWantToWork campaign successfully advocated for an additional $5 million in state funds, drawing $18.9 in federal matching dollars in the 2015-16 budget to implement the legislation.