I participated in an important event recently at the state capitol to kick off a new campaign for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The campaign is called "Employment First."
An audience of hundreds — including people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers, advocates, service providers and legislators — were there. So was a man named Carlos who works at an Oregon bagel shop. Carlos is featured in the campaign because both he and his employer recognize that his developmental disabilities are no barrier for him to deliver great customer service. That's an inspiration to all of us.
The Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities designed the new state initiative to create job opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. By increasing awareness of the untapped abilities of this important segment of the work force, the goal is to move their overall unemployment rate down from the current level of 78 percent.
The campaign calls attention not only to people with developmental disabilities who want to work, but also to the benefits realized by businesses that employ them. Real jobs, paychecks and the dignity of employment enable Oregonians of all abilities to provide at least a portion of the essentials such as housing, food and clothing for their families and themselves. The campaign also highlights the supports and services people with developmental disabilities need. You can find out more by visiting the Employment First Web site.
Oregon has made amazing progress, both as a society and in our public services and structures; it has been a decade of accomplishments by, and for, the community of people with developmental disabilities. On the 10th anniversary of the closing of Fairview and less than one year after we closed the Eastern Oregon Training Center, we were able to say that Oregon doesn't institutionalize people with developmental disabilities.
During the celebration at the capitol, the Oregon Developmental Disabilities Coalition recognized SPD's James Toews and Mary Lee Fay for their long-standing leadership in improving services. As their award certificates state, they have been "reasonably unreasonable in the push for progress."
Additionally, Bob Clabby, former superintendent of Eastern Oregon Training Center, received a Developmental Disabilities Champion Award from the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities. He and his staff were recognized for their work to ensure a smooth transition of the last remaining residents at Eastern Oregon Training Center into homes in the community.
As you can see, we have a lot to celebrate for DD Awareness Month. I hope you will join me in being proud of what we have accomplished in our state for, and with, these important members of our communities.