Alexa Brill at Stander

Gov. Tom Wolf signed a budget containing funds to ensure young people with disabilities get part-time and summer jobs while they are in high school.

This is a very big deal, and personal to me. I depend on a wheelchair and other supports to live, including to work.

Having a job while in high school gives people with disabilities the chance to see what life will be like when they become an adult – especially the experience of getting and holding a job.

I began looking for work before graduating from college, but had no success.

This funding is connected to House Bill 400, which is awaiting a final vote in the Senate. If House Bill 400 were law when was in high school, I would have been able to have access to an employment opportunity much sooner, and gain valuable experience, just like my sisters and others without disabilities.

House Bill 400 creates new priorities for how the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) deals with young people with disabilities while they are in high school. The budget provides the funds to enable OVR to hire the staff and provide job coaching and other services to support high school students to get jobs summers, nights and weekends and to encourage employers to hire people like me.

All we want is a chance to get part-time and summer employment while still in high school, just like our peers without disabilities.

The #IWantToWork Campaign sincerely thanks all the legislators who supported getting funds in the budget during this challenging session. Throughout the budget controversy all the parties involved – the Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, and Gov.

Wolf, supported including this funding in the budget. It is an issue that transcended the partisanship.

I want to give a special shout-out to our legislative champions, Representative Mauree Gingrich, R-Lebanon, chair of the House Labor and Industry Committee; and Senator Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. These incredible women really understand the importance of this issue and have never wavered in their support.

We are confident that HB 400 will pass the Senate soon, and go to Gov. Wolf for his signature. When it does, OVR will have both the funding and the direction it needs to assist youth and young adults with disabilities in gaining access to part-employment opportunities before graduating high school. This will enable those with disabilities to become the valuable and contributing members of society that they want to be, just like their peers.

By Alexa Brill

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