David Adair, who works on a federal facilities maintenance contract in Syracuse, and Doris Donahue, who works at Human Technologies’ manufacturing site in Utica, recently attended the annual SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference in Washington D.C. The three day conference highlights job creation under the AbilityOne program and provides attendees with public speaking training, education on pending legislation which impacts people with disabilities, and the opportunity to meet with members of Congress and their staff.
David and Doris made the rounds on Capitol Hill, meeting with Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-22) and staffers of Congressmen John Katko (NY-24), Brian Higgins (NY-27), Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, and Charles Schumer.
Wearing pins proclaiming “Nothing about us without us!”, David and Doris expressed their personal experiences and views about the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA), which redefines acceptable work settings for people with disabilities in a way which eliminates opportunities to obtain employment. The law’s current interpretation of integrated employment, defined as a work setting “typically found in communities”, means Vocational Rehabilitation job placement agencies cannot consider mission-driven employers like Human Technologies, particularly if job-seekers would be working on state and federal government contracts.
David told staffers he would like to see this law changed. “I’m so happy to have this job and proud of the work I do for the Navy”, he said, noting that he and his co-workers earn good money and benefits, and interact with non-disabled government workers all day. “I don’t get what’s not integrated about that”.
They also spoke of how the healthcare bill currently in the Senate, designed to replace the Affordable Care Act, drastically reduces Medicaid support services that are critical for people with disabilities to live independent, productive lives. They both asked the representatives not to support it.
Doris Donahue shared her own experiences, stating “I have worked at Human Technologies for four years and this is the longest I have ever held a job. The other places I tried to work always told me I was too slow and would let me go. I get the help I need now, and earning a paycheck allows me to live on my own and do what I want to do. Having a job gives me purpose in life.”
Human Technologies has sent two employees with disabilities to this conference for seven consecutive years. Linda Forth, Vice President of Human Resources, accompanied David and Doris throughout the conference and on their visits to The Hill. “This is a great event, as it creates a real connection between our employees and our elected officials. Our employees have compelling stories to tell. Legislation matters to them and greatly impacts their lives. This gives them the chance to voice their positions face to face instead of having someone else do their talking for them.”