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Iowans with Disabilities are EQUAL to the Task

PHOTO: Only 22% of Iowans with disabilities currently have full-time employment. A forum to help change that is Oct. 17 in Ankeny. Photo credit: USDA
PHOTO: Only 22% of Iowans with disabilities currently have full-time employment. A forum to help change that is Oct. 17 in Ankeny. Photo credit: USDA
October 15, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - They are one of Iowa's great untapped resources: people with disabilities who are trying to break into the work force. That situation is being called to public attention in this Disabilities Employment Awareness Month.

According to Becky Harker, executive director of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, these workers are more than equal to the task, and just need the opportunity to prove it.

"They live in the community, and a part of living in the community is also working in the community," she declared. "They bring gifts and talents to the work force and to the employers looking for good workers."

Nearly 350,000 Iowans have some type of disability, and only about one in five of them has full-time employment.

Harker also noted that the rate of poverty among those with disabilities in the state is nearly double that of other Iowans.

"And so, a part of growing out of poverty is the ability to work," she declared. "And so I think that that has implications not only for people with disabilities, but for all Americans, in terms of their ability to contribute like everyone else."

To help build a work force that's more inclusive, Harker suggested better training and education on both social and work skills and habits.

"I think another thing is to understand that segregating kids in school or in employment training programs is not preparing them," she said. "So, if we want people to work in the community, they need to learn how to work in the community as they're growing up."

A forum on how to empower individuals with disabilities through employment will be held this Thursday (October 17) in Ankeny, co-hosted by Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Tom Harkin.

More information is at bit.ly/1gBT7gF and at 1.usa.gov/1cgDNmS.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA