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October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

SALEM, Ore., Oct. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Oregon Rehabilitation Association (ORA),, wants to shine the spotlight on Oregon's disabled workers this October with National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In 1945, Congress designated the first week of each October to help increase the public's awareness of American workers with disabilities. Congress expanded the week to the entire month of October in 1988.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of passage of Oregon's "Products of Disabled Individuals Law," which promotes the employment of individuals with disabilities. The law establishes a process so that certain agencies serving the disabled qualify for contracts with public agencies for goods or services. The law benefits all involved -- the contracts employ more than 4,000 people with disabilities across the state who are able to work at meaningful jobs, agencies get the goods and services they need, and taxpayers spend less on support for the disabled.

Tim Kral, director of the ORA, said, "People who have disabilities are a valued and important part of the workforce. They contribute to our communities and we want to pay tribute to them. We also want to commend our business partners who hire and help accommodate individuals with disabilities."

Kral added that the law establishing the Products of Disabled Individuals has been crucial in providing employment opportunities for workers with disabilities. "Before passage of the law, the majority of these individuals were unemployed, and living in state-supported facilities such as Fairview," he said. "This law provides more jobs for people with pronounced disabilities than any of Oregon's public programs."

The Oregon Rehabilitation Association serves 65 non-profit organizations across Oregon,, and helps approximately 7,000 people with disabilities find jobs and receive training.

Amy Young, age 39, works for Garten Services, Inc.,, an ORA member operating in the mid-Willamette Valley. Garten employs approximately 500 people with developmental disabilities or long-term mental illness. Young, part of a crew that dismantles old computers and other electronics parts, works at the organizations' north Salem recycling plant. She's been with Garten for 11 years.

"I love my job," she said. Before that, she worked in Garten's mailroom on the swing shift. "I miss my friends over there," she said, "but I like this day job a lot."

Another Garten employee, Steven Vogl, 58, said his job is "interesting and exciting. I have worked for 16 years driving forklift and no accidents."

Garten has contracts with public agencies and private employers for services such as recycling, fulfillment and packaging, custodial, laundry and landscaping.

ORA Board Chair Cindy Stockton, the executive director of Riverside Training Center in St. Helens, said, "People with disabilities face many challenges in our society but their ability to hold down a job and be independent is extremely important and they deserve the chance to work and succeed."

To visit a worksite in your community, contact Tim Kral at ORA, 503-585-3337.

SOURCE Oregon Rehabilitation Association
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