On Tuesday, June 24, members of 49 Easter Seals affiliates across the nation gathered in our nation's capital to march on Capitol Hill and advocate for the funding and programs that support employment for adults, seniors and veterans with disabilities.
The Hoosier group was made up of Sara Croft (myself) and Brent Pierce to represent Easter Seals Crossroads, along with the CEO and a volunteer of Easter Seals ARC of Northeast Indiana and Ben Trockman and family of Easter Seals Southwest Indiana. Together, we met with Indiana's representatives and senators to discuss how Easter Seals is making a difference in the communities they represent and serve.
Easter Seals provided an advocacy training seminar to empower the affiliates for our appointments the next day. During this time, we were reminded of some staggering statistics regarding employment and people with disabilities and veterans:
80% of people with disabilities who want to work are NOT represented in the workforce - compared to 70% of people without disabilities who ARE
Gulf War veterans represent 1/2 of all unemployed veterans
Female veterans are the fastest growing homeless population
The over-65 age group is the most employed demographic population
49 Easter Seals affiliates (a total of 200 representatives) were set to make 231 appointments, 91 of those being with our Senators and Representatives. This map shows where we came from and what areas we serve:
Our agenda was to urge our Senators and Representatives to pass the Workforce Investment Act, the Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Program and the Senior Community Service Employment Program.
We want individuals with disabilities, older adults and veterans to get jobs
Too many people struggle to find meaningful work
Congress MUST increase access to employment services and supports and improve employment outcomes and opportunities for these populations
During the advocacy summit, we heard from Claudia Gordon, Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Gordon is the first Deaf African-American lawyer and she gave an inspiring presentation about the obstacles she overcame to be where she is today. Her priority in the OFCCP is to ensure that federal contractors do not discriminate against people with disabilities.
The OFCCP has set a goal for federal contractors that could result in an additional 600,000 jobs for people with disabilities in the coming year. In addition, the OFCCP is requiring federal contractors to collect more data on disability and veteran employment.
Ben Trockman, a former intern with Easter Seals and an ambassador for people with disabilities, spoke about the importance of employment for young adults. Ben was excited to announce that he was just offered a position with Old National Bank in Evansville as their Community Outreach and Employment Specialist, in which Ben will work with Easter Seals and other employment providers to ensure that people with disabilities, veterans and seniors are accurately represented in the workforce.
On Tuesday, June 24, we were scheduled for six meetings on Capitol Hill:
Rep. Susan Brooks with Legislative Director Megan Brooks (IN-05)
Rep. Andre Carson with Legislative Assistant Erica Powell (IN-07)
Sen. Joe Donnely with Legislative Assistant Devin Benavidez (IN-S)
Sen. Dan Coats with Legislative Assistant Sam Blevins (IN-S)
Rep. Marlin Stutzman with Legislative Assistant William Young (IN-03)
Rep. Larry Bucshon with Legislative Assistant Sarah Killeen (IN-08)
Here are just a few photos from our meetings:
With Megan Savage, representing Rep. Susan Brooks
With Rep. Andre Carson
Easter Seals Hoosier Affiliates
With Sam Blevins, representing Sen. Dan Coats
After spending the day advocating with Easter Seals, we were joined by Senator Tom Harkin, a founding advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Assistive Technology Act, and overall advocate for people with disabilities in the United States, at our reception dinner.
At Easter Seals Crossroads, our advocacy for employment opportunities for people with disabilities goes far beyond our time spent on Capitol Hill. From providing young adults in high school with employment skills through the NEXT Project to assisting adults with disabilities with resume, interview skills and job coaching in our employment services division and working to reintegrate veterans into the workforce, Easter Seals Crossroads is committed to empowering people with disabilities through employment.
View photos and learn more about Capitol Hill Day with Easter Seals by following #CapHill14 on Twitter!