Rep. John Lewis Celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and an important time to recognize the continuing employment difficulties that face Americans with disabilities. Despite the ability and desire to work, people with disabilities face a 50-percent unemployment rate or higher.
In order to help bring more attention to this problem, Rep. John Lewis was named a Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) champion. Since 1938, the JWOD program has provided job training and employment opportunities for people who are blind or who have other severe disabilities. Last year, this organization located in the 5th Congressional District served approximately 1,100 Georgians with disabilities who were able to earn nearly $7.6 million in direct labor wages.
"Decent employment for a livable wage is a powerful way to affirm the contributions of citizens with disabilities," said Rep. Lewis. "Every human being has gifts to share with our society. We must make room for them, understand their issues and concerns, and find meaningful ways for Americans with disabilities to help sustain the nation."
The program, which uses the purchasing power of the federal government to buy products and services from participating community-based nonprofit agencies, provides the opportunity to hone job skills while earning good wages and benefits. The end result is greater independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. In Georgia, 976 people with disabilities currently work on JWOD contracts, which generated $7,594,510 in wages earned and $27,970,953 in product sales for the state.
Rep. Lewis also maintains a close relationship with the Bobby Dodd Institute, a community rehabilitation facility in the 5th district that annually serves approximately 700 people with disabilities. Last year, the Congressman helped the institute secure a $45,000 technology grant to purchase computers for its high school special education program. Rep. Lewis actively works with the facility to identify employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the 5th District.
"The work of JWOD and the Bobby Dodd Institute," said Congressman Lewis, "gives meaning to those in our society who too often are left out and left behind. I remain committed to do all I can to help our brothers and sisters - our sons and daughters - who must live with disabilities."