The Mississippi legislature passed a bill March 31 to provide a higher chance of employment for people with disabilities.
The legislature adopted H.B. 836, which will provide new opportunities for people with disabilities so they can use their skills and strengths as part of the state’s workforce, according to a USM press release.
Introduced by Rep. Carolyn Crawford (R-Pass Christian), the bill requires state agencies that provide employment services and support to people with disabilities to consider competitive employment in settings that include and serve people with and without disabilities. Competitive employment means at or above minimum wage.
These state agencies will also collaborate and coordinate efforts to better serve people with disabilities. An appointed group of self-advocates, agency representatives and community members will review and recommend system change each year.
“I’m very proud that Mississippi is recognizing the abilities of its citizens with disabilities to contribute to this great state,” said Cindy Singletary, a self-advocate from Biloxi.
The bill was built off four years of hard work from the Mississippi Partnerships for Employment for Youth and Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities project, a consortium established in 2011, according to a USM press release.
Funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the project directed a state-level collaborate approach to improving employment outcomes for Mississippians with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The bill now awaits Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature before it becomes law.
Eric Poll, an elementary education major at USM, gave his opinion on the law.
“I feel like everyone should have an equal opportunity,” Poll said.
“If they cannot function completely, I don’t feel like someone with disabilities should be able to work just in case there’s a danger. It can be successful here. There are a lot of people with prejudices and we have to move past that. We have to move past ‘he’s disabled, he can’t do anything,’” he added.
Eric Poll himself was in disability classes when he was younger. He had comprehensive learning disabilities and was told he would never make an A again. Poll now has a 3.6 GPA.
Akaski Onish is a foreign exchange student from Japan who studies English at USM. Onish talked about his country and about how they treat people with disabilities.
“In my opinion, it’s OK because everyone does so many different things,” Onish said. “We don’t have a right to say about bad things. Everyone has a right to do anything.”
Onish said that in Japan there are services to help people get out into the workforce. Japan’s culture treats everyone equally in the workplace, no matter his or her condition.
“I feel like everyone should be able to work and people with disabilities need to work to provide what they need in their life,” said Kyler Fog, a media production major. “I wouldn’t have an issue with it. If anybody needs a source of income, it’s them first, so I feel it can work.”