Dear Governor Walker,
Thank you for your strategic vision and commitment to expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities here in Wisconsin through your Better Bottom Line Initiative and the increase in funding for the important services provided by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. As a Board Member of Opportunities, Inc. and a long term supporter of community based rehabilitation organizations that practice CHOICE, I applaud your support. These initiatives will benefit many individuals, and increase awareness of the talents and contributions of people with disabilities in the workforce.
However, as I’m sure you are fully aware; Wisconsin is at a “crossroads” when it comes to the future of employment policy for people with disabilities. Critical questions need to be answered including “Will Wisconsin preserve a full array of options, or will it eliminate the option of center based employment programs that are benefiting thousands of people?”
I am asking for your continued strong leadership as you have shown throughout your tenure as Governor, to guide Wisconsin in adapting an employment policy that protects and ensures the full array of choices and settings to meet the widely varying needs of ALL individuals.
Wisconsin has a respected community rehabilitation industry that employs thousands of individuals and fosters a social enterprising environment highly regarded by many Wisconsin corporations. It ensures jobs are kept in Wisconsin that otherwise would be outsourced overseas. Moreover, their mission is committed to workforce development and community integration for those with the most significant barriers. I know you understand this, as you have toured many of these impressive programs throughout the state. Therefore, I am requesting your commitment to preserve the full array of employment choices these organizations provide. Employment in the community can be a “first and preferred” option, but we need to protect center based choices, as well. There are other states that have succeeded in this despite federal funding policies; I am confident under your leadership Wisconsin can accomplish this goal too.
Thank you for your consideration and commitment to this important perspective and the thousands of Wisconsin citizens with disabilities that depend on the continuation of a full array of options to ensure life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness.
Gary Ellerman, Board Member