Patty Birch, Production Worker, and Rebecca Fogg, Set-up Operator-Embroidery, both working on federal uniform management contracts for Human Technologies’ (HT), 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.
Patty and Rebecca made the rounds on Capitol Hill, meeting with staffers of Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Congressmen John Katko (NY-24), Brian Higgins (NY-27), New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, and Charles Schumer and Pennsylvania Senator Patrick Toomey.
Patty and Rebecca talked about the work they perform at HT, the types of products that we are supplying our members of the military, and some of the places that we ship products. Additionally, they were able to express 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 Rehabilitation Services Administration’s (RSA) current interpretation of the law regarding integrated employment, defined as a work setting “typically found in communities,” is a misinterpretation of Congress’s intent. The impact of this has Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) job placement agencies not considering employment opportunities through mission-driven employers like Human Technologies, particularly if job-seekers would be working on state and federal government contracts. They asked members of Congress to follow up with Betsy Devos, Secretary for the Department of Education, to remind VR to assess a case by case basis for determining whether a work site would be considered integrated.
Patty and Rebecca brought additional support from home to speak to the positive impact that employment at HT has had on them from the family’s perspective. Patty’s twin sister, Polly, spoke about how Patty’s real personality has come back while working in a supportive environment where Patty is not being taken advantage of. And Rebecca’s father, George, talked about how much Rebecca has grown personally and professionally since her employment with HT. Both Patty and Rebecca proudly talked about being promoted over the last year and how impactful it is to have your contributions be recognized.
Human Technologies has sent employees with disabilities to this conference for nine consecutive years. Linda Forth, Vice President of Human Resources, accompanied Patty, Rebecca and their family supports throughout the conference and on their visits to The Hill. “This proves to be an incredible opportunity for our employees each year. It allows the employee to see that their voice is important and needs to be heard. It also educates our members of Congress, so they understand the issues related to someone with a disability having the opportunity to work. 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 and educate them on the impact their decisions have on people with disabilities. A great motto is “Nothing about us without us. Everyone has a voice.”