Alexa Brill With Senator

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing state Senator Sean Wiley about his support of Employment First legislation, which would give people with disabilities the opportunity to succeed in competitive, integrated employment first, rather than defaulting to our outmoded systems.

“It is clear to me that a disability should never stand in the way of someone who wants to be a part of the workforce”, says Sen. Wiley, an Erie County Democrat. “Many times when people look at others with a disability, only what a person cannot do is seen, not what that person can do. Why do we focus on the disability, not the ability? The Employment First Bill focuses on the abilities in us all.”

Throughout his time as a senator, Wiley has met many people in the disability community to learn about “their advocacy and passions. I am honored to help in any way that I can to ensure each person in our Commonwealth has the same opportunities.”

Sen. Wiley is motivated by his personal experiences with people with disabilities. “There are varying levels of disability in my family, both physical and intellectual, and seeing my family members struggle and thrive has changed me forever. I am incredibly proud of their accomplishments, perseverance and drive.”

In addition, the senator is “a staunch supporter of programs, services and legislation designed to be supportive of individuals of all ages who have disabilities. I’ve joined the I Want to Work Campaign on numerous occasions as well as supported local initiatives like the OASIS Program at Mercyhurst University in my district.  I will continue to support opportunities for growth in this arena across Pennsylvania.”

Sen. Wiley believes “Pennsylvania is ahead of the curve in this regard with programs like Project SEARCH, which provides education and training to youth and young adults with disabilities, but needs to stay on top of best practices. Programs and services designed to support the transition from school to employment are key to young people with disabilities. Total workplace immersion has proven to be a model that works and coupling that with existing support systems produces dynamic results.”

Sen. Wiley wants employers to know that “employees come in all shapes and sizes with all kinds of abilities. Don’t let fear make a decision that you will likely regret. Take the time to educate yourself about the person’s ability as well as their disability.”

His advice to people with disabilities searching for competitive, integrated employment is: “Never give up. Put your best foot forward and take the opportunity to educate about your ability AND your disability.”

By Alexa Brill

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