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Governor Tom Wolf signs bill to help young people with disabilities prepare for futures

Pittsburgh, Pa. (May 17, 2016) – House Bill 400, legislation that will offer support to services that help young people with disabilities find part-time and summer employment, was signed into law today by Governor Wolf at the Governor’s Reception Room in the Capitol.

The legislation was created by United Way of Southwestern PA’s #IWantToWork social media self-advocacy campaign staffed by young people with disabilities. #IWantToWork reached landmark achievements, received bipartisan support, and passed this legislation in record time due to a collaborative effort from United Way’s 21 and Able initiative, which works to create a roadmap for youth with disabilities, and the Campaign for What Works, which helps ensure the future of vital human service programs.

“This legislation is a great step forward for young people with disabilities in Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Josie Badger, manager of the #IWantToWork Campaign. “Young people with disabilities are ready and able to work. House Bill 400 offers them an opportunity to be productive, tax-paying members of our society, just like everyone else.”

Lead by Representative Maureen Gingrich and Senator Lisa Baker and passed through Senate with a bipartisan effort, the legislation will provide additional funding to the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to help job supports and transition services for young people with disabilities in Pennsylvania. OVR Staff will help these high school-aged individuals obtain summer and part-time employment. Pennsylvania invests an average of $200,000 on the education of a young person with disabilities. With the passage of HB400, Pennsylvanians with disabilities will be given more opportunities to use their training to obtain meaningful, inclusive employment.

The #IWantToWork Campaign began just under two years ago when United Way of Southwestern PA’s 21 and Able partnered with Campaign for What Works to develop legislation and gather advocates to support young people with disabilities. The social media self-advocacy campaign will continue working to help people with disabilities thrive in Pennsylvania.

“This collaboration and effort by the #IWantToWork Campaign is a tremendous first step in ensuring all willing and able Pennsylvania citizens with disabilities are given the opportunity to work and contribute,” said Heather Sedlacko, director, programs for seniors and people with disabilities, United Way of Southwestern PA. “We hope to continue driving systemic change toward inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace, and build a bridge to lifelong employment through early work experience.”

Governor Wolf recently signed an executive order to make Pennsylvania an Employment First State, providing persons with disabilities access to job opportunities in workplaces that are fully integrated. #IWantToWork hopes to take steps to ensure this legislation is passed and will remain in affect in the future.

About United Way of Southwestern PA – United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, serving Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette and Southern Armstrong counties, leads and mobilizes the caring power of individuals, the business community and organizations to help local people in need measurably improve their lives. United Way creates long-lasting change for the betterment of our community.

About 21 and Able—21 and Able, an initiative of United Way of Southwestern PA, is working to create a roadmap for youth with disabilities who are transitioning out of the education and supportive services system to continue their education, work, live independently, and participate actively in their communities. 21 and Able is working toward this goal via three strategies: the development of a public policy agenda and coordination of advocacy efforts; the creation of a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the urgency of issues related to youth transitioning to adulthood; and the design and launch of pilot projects that address the transition needs of youth with disabilities and their families.

About #IWantToWork—The #IWantToWork self-advocacy, social media campaign is powered by young people with disabilities. The campaign focuses on creating and advocating policies to help people with disabilities prepare and obtain jobs in integrated work environments. It is a major element of the Campaign for What Works, a statewide civic effort initiated by The Pittsburgh Foundation, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership and The Forbes Funds to ensure the future of our vital human service programs and, above all, the well being of the people they serve. More information is available at www.IWantToWorkPA.org.