I recently asked state Rep. Dan Miller why he is one of the leaders Employment First legislation to give people with disabilities the opportunity to succeed in competitive, integrated employment first, rather than defaulting to our outmoded systems.
“Far too often young adults with a disability are finishing high school or post-secondary degrees and are graduating to the couch instead of to a competitive job”, said Rep. Miller, D-Allegheny. “It is time for Pennsylvania to lead the way in making sure all of our citizens who want to work be given an opportunity to do so”.
Rep Miller has made advocacy for people with disabilities a major element of his service in the state House of Representatives.
He has met many people with disabilities “who have graduated high school but can’t find work. Others have graduated college, taken on student debt, and yet cannot find employment. While this is an issue for many across the Commonwealth, it is magnified in the disability community”, said Rep. Miller.
“We have found a way to improve education but not opportunity,” Miller said saying he has introduced legislation allowing alternatives to civil service exams. “We have to continue to push the envelope in way that doesn’t lower the bar, but recognizes not everyone will pass over it in the same way.”
“We have made strides as a state and a nation in improving education for young people with disabilities, and clearly a prioritization of early intervention often enhances future opportunities”, Rep. Miller said of Pennsylvania’s commitment to young people with disabilities. “But we are still working in a system designed for the needs existing 10-15 years ago, and not for the needs of today or tomorrow… Young people with disabilities and their families must continue to fight for resources that opens more doors”.
Rep. Miller serves as the co-chair of the Subcommittee on Special Education and as a member of the Autism and Intellectual Disabilities Caucus. The majority of my legislative efforts have been spent promoting disability and mental health causes”, said Rep. Miller. He hosts an annual “Disability and Mental Health Summit. This year’s summit had an attendance of 900, including more than 80 transition-age students with disabilities.
Rep. Miller wants employers seeking to hire people with disabilities to know that “ ‘accommodation’ is not a bad word and results can speak for them-selves. Nothing makes customers more satisfied then quality products and staff reflecting all members of our community”.
“Pennsylvania must do better at providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity and ability to live productive, meaningful lives, said Rep. Miller.
By Alexa Brill