The State Associations have been doing a great deal of work on crafting our campaign to raise starting wages for Direct Service Professionals to $15.00 per hour. Two key parts to the campaign include legislation recently introduced, Senate Bill 2952 and House Bill 5931. Both of these bills would increase the DSP starting wage to $15.00.

There are four useful tools you can use now as we begin to roll out the campaign.

  1. Fact Sheet on Senate Bill 2952. Use this Fact Sheet when asking your Senator to become a Co-Sponsor.
  2. Fact Sheet on House Bill 5931. Use this Fact Sheet when asking your Representative to become a Co-Sponsor.
  3. We Are DSPs Facebook Page. Like the DSP Page and post on it.
  4. Value The Work Handout

There are also four regional meetings for providers around the state in the works right now. These regional meetings will be open to any and all providers in Illinois. The intent of the meetings will be to share an action plan and materials to use with members of the General Assembly to resolve the current recruitment and retention crisis of DSPs in Illinois. More to come on these important regional meetings.
Great story from today’s Chicago Tribune below. Our friends Marca Bristo and Emily Harris quoted!

EEOC proposal: Disabled workers should be 12% of staff at federal agencies
Alexia Elejalde-RuizContact ReporterChicago Tribune

In a significant step for disability rights advocates, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has proposed that 12 percent of the workforce at federal agencies be made up of people with disabilities, including at the highest pay scales.

That’s a higher standard than the 7 percent goal currently asked of federal contractors.
“It’s a tremendous step forward with us,” said Marca Bristo, president and CEO of Access Living in Chicago. “This has put in place a significant piece missing in action.”

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities, which measures those who are looking for work, is double that of the general population. Between 60 and 70 percent of people with disabilities are not in the labor force at all.

Though the rule would apply only to federal agencies, Bristo said it is significant for Chicagoans because there are many federal jobs here that are usually stable and offer opportunities for lateral transfers and promotions.

The new announcement, in tandem with the 2013 goal for federal contractors, could “light the spark that we hope will ignite much greater interest” in the private sector for hiring people with disabilities.

“This is the segment of the community whose talents have been most excluded,” Bristo said. “You never know who is going to be the next Stephen Hawking.”

The EEOC’s proposed rule, officially published Wednesday, provides guidance to federal agencies on how to satisfy their affirmative action obligations under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities in the federal sector.

The current rules state only that the federal government should be a “model employer of individuals with disabilities” and instructs federal agencies to give them “full consideration” in hiring, placement and advancement. Several executive orders have set hiring goals for the federal workforce but did not establish a numeric target.

The public has until April 25 to submit comments before the commission submits a final rule to the Office of Management and Budget.

The 12 percent goal would apply at both higher- and lower-level positions. While data show that the federal government, as a whole, achieved a 12 percent disability representation rate, disabled workers are disproportionately represented at lower levels of employment, so the proposal seeks to “rectify the imbalance,” the EEOC said.

The proposal also calls for a 2 percent representation rate, at all levels, for people with severe disabilities, which include total deafness in both ears, blindness, missing extremities, partial or complete paralysis, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, psychiatric disability and dwarfism. Though the commission has encouraged federal agencies to adopt the 2 percent goal for many years, data show they have fallen short, particularly at higher-paid positions.
The EEOC rule also would require agencies to provide personal assistance services to employees who need help with activities such as eating, taking off their coats or using the restroom while at work.

Emily Harris, executive director of ADA 25 Chicago, an initiative of the Chicago Community Trust to mark the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act last year, called the proposal “very exciting,” as the 12 percent goal more closely reflects the nation’s disabled population.

About 1.4 million people in Illinois have a disability, or 11 percent of the population, according to ADA 25 Chicago. Just 35 percent of people with disabilities in the state are employed, and 28 percent in Chicago, compared with 75 percent of people without disabilities. The median annual income of someone with a disability is $21,000, versus $31,800 for those without.

Harris said she was pleased that the proposal highlighted the goals for high-level positions. She said she has encountered many disabled people, especially in the blind population, with advanced degrees who were successful in school because accommodations were made but then struggled to enter the workforce.

Harris is hopeful that the example set by the federal government encourages employers in the private sector to get on board. Employers she encountered during the ADA festivities last year told her they wanted to hire more people with disabilities but didn’t know how to go about training recruiters, creating accessible recruitment strategies and maintaining a talent pipeline; they also had concerns about offering accommodations.

“If the federal government can crack that and reach that level of participation, it sets a great signal to all employers that this can be done,” Harris said.
Twitter @alexiaer
Copyright © 2016, Chicago Tribune

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Tony Paulauski
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The Arc of Illinois
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