Rally for employment of people with disabilities

On February 19, 2009, a coalition of disability and economic empowerment organizations rallied outside the Federal Building in support of better job opportunities for people with disabilities. The Rally officially launched a campaign called DAWWN – Disabled Americans who Want Work Now.

The employment rate of people with disabilities is only about 40%, just half the rate of non-disabled people. Around the country, there are 14 million people with disabilities who are able to work and who want to work, but, because of social and physical barriers, are unemployed.

With millions of Economic Stimulus dollars earmarked for Vocational Rehabilitation and jobs programs, Illinois has the potential help thousands of unemployed people find work.

Unwilling to wait for a job to call their name, 30 people demonstrated on the 19th, carrying signs and passing out leaflets that called on Illinois leadership to help stop employment discrimination, ensure that entities that benefit from the stimulus hire people with disabilities, and reform rehabilitation and service programs to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

The group rallied for about two hours, then secured a meeting with Senator Durbin’s office. The coalition hopes to work with Durbin’s office on job training and employment strategies.

“So many of us have struggled to find jobs,” said William Owens, who has applied for hundreds of jobs over the past few years, after the rally. “In the past, opportunity has passed us by. We are not going to let that happen again.”