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Martina Carroll: Remove work barriers for state’s disabled

To the editor:

I write to ask folks to call their state legislators and urge them to support An Act to Increase the Commonwealth’s Compliance with Federal Law Meeting Requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This bill, H136, would require companies with state contracts to commit to hiring people with disabilities and training all employees involved in hiring decisions on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s about time. When you meet someone new, what’s one of the first things you ask? For most of us, it’s along the lines of “What do you do?” But if you are a person with disabilities, people may assume that you don’t work at all. Sadly, that may still be true; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 32 percent of working-age people with disabilities were in the labor force in 2012.

Most people with disabilities want to work and have lots to offer, but many barriers — largely attitudinal — remain. People with disabilities want more out of life than a monthly Social Security Disability Insurance check. We want to have meaningful lives in the community and a vital part of that is having a job. We have a lot to offer employers, including enthusiasm, diverse experiences that foster new ways of solving problems and lower absenteeism rates.

Both goals of H136 are important. The state has to start walking the walk, not just talking the talk. We need to require companies that benefit from state contracts to make a commitment to hire individuals with disabilities and to make sure everyone at these companies understands the ADA.

Through this law, Massachusetts employers can benefit from the work of all citizens.

Martina Carroll

Amherst

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