Testimony for the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) Five-Year Comprehensive Plan, 2008
Submitted by Ernesto Franco, Self-Advocate and Intern
at the Disabilities Network of New York City
Date: June 26, 2008
Good evening to Commissioner Ritter and everyone here tonight. My name is Ernesto Franco and I am a Self-Advocate.
I’m here tonight to talk about the lack of employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and how this directly impacts our place in the community.
Employment is the high-speed express train to our futures—but you have to have a ticket to get on. Most of the time, those of us with developmental disabilities are not only left without a ticket, but we can actually feel the wind slapping our faces as the train zooms on by, leaving us in its dust.
While I have been lucky enough to have viable employment over the past few years, that is not the case for many people with developmental disabilities.
Due to the lack of sufficient education and job-employment training programs, many of us with developmental disabilities do not feel prepared or confident when it comes to finding work. Due to stereotypes and attitudes that still subside in the minds of many community members, many of us with developmental disabilities still experience prejudice in the workforce. Due to many programs still being based around teaching menial tasks rather than the skills and jobs we are passionate about learning, many of us with developmental disabilities feel stuck at a standstill.
So that leaves me here, to ask you all tonight…how do we get a ticket for that train?
We do not want a free ride. We do not want a special ticket. We do not want to sit in a carriage of the train designated just for people with disabilities. We want to ride that train just like anybody else, as members of the community, as people who belong there. We want to hurtle ourselves forward via a track that leads to a future with choices.
When people have meaningful jobs they feel better about themselves. When people earn an actual income, it gives them a sense of worth and independence.
For me, as a person with Autism, having work that I care about has made me grow as a person. I feel stronger and have a greater sense of dignity. Now I work as an ETP intern (through OMRDD) at the Disabilities Network of NYC. It is a job that I love; it is important to me.
I am here to ask you tonight to help make job experiences like mine more widely available to people with developmental disabilities. We need more opportunities like the ETP internship for people. We need better training, improved education, and ways for people to feel supported in college settings. We need more individualized approaches in our Day Programs, to help people discover, and not simply be told, what they will be doing with their lives.
We need people with developmental disabilities to feel they can contribute to their communities via jobs that matters. People with disabilities do not want to just hear the distant cry of that train whistle in the distance. We want to be ON that train, surrounded by people with and without disabilities alike, zooming towards our futures.
Can you help us get that ticket???
Watch the video of my testimony at www.nystv.com/omrdd/ny2.htm