An estimated 70 percent of disabled people in New York are unemployed. It’s a complicated issue.
But advocates say there’s a simple solution. They’re calling on lawmakers to “Make the Change.”
A rally was held at the state Capitol, calling for changes to the Preferred Source law. Advocates say the 43-year-old legislation, intended to create job opportunities for the disabled, desperately needs updating. Doing so, they say, will improve and create job opportunities.
“Bureaucracy has ground this program a little bit to a halt. We’ve had a stagnant growth of about 7,000 jobs. We haven’t increased that in 5 years,” said Corey Heritage, senior manager for business development and government affairs for New York State Industries for the Disabled.
NYSID partners dozens of agencies and businesses such as eBizDocs, a tech company in Menands, to help disabled people find work.
“We have a voice and we are just like any normal person. We want to turn around and make a living and turn around and thrive for what we believe in that we can work,” said Betty Napoli, an eBizDocs worker.
Napoli has a learning disability and struggles with reading and writing. Those obstacles don’t interfere with her work ethic, she says. Betty wants others like her to find fulfillment through employment.
“When you have a place to go to and go to work to take your mind off your disability and you are in society and you are actually fitting in to a place and working and thriving in your whole life, it is wonderful,” said Napoli.
Forty percent of the workforce at eBizDocs is disabled. President Howard Gross supports updating the language of preferred source law.
“It will allow us to hire more people. It will allow us to provide more services to the state when the list of services is 40 years old, that’s real troubling,” Gross said.
The changes unanimously passed the state Senate. Supporters say the changes would not impact the state budget.
“We make that change; does it shift the number from 70 to 68 percent? Sure. And as the old saying goes, it may not matter to everyone, but to the people who get the jobs, it sure as hell matters,” Heritage said.
Supporters are hopeful the legislation makes it to the Assembly floor before the end of the session.