The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
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New York New York 10017
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NDSS Launches Inclusive Employment Campaign, #DSWORKS

Washington, DC (March 22, 2016) –Today, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) launched a new employment campaign for people with Down syndrome - #DSWORKS with the help of Members of Congress, business leaders and stakeholders in the disability community. NDSS’ #DSWORKS is designed to educate the general public about how individuals with Down syndrome are employable individuals and should be included in all aspects of the work force while encouraging corporations and businesses to invest in hiring people with Down syndrome and increase the number of opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome to work in meaningful and competitive employment settings.

A panel, moderated by NDSS President Sara Hart Weir, discussed what Congress and States can do to create employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Former Governor and Chairman of the National Organization on Disability Tom Ridge  joined the panel with Jason Hamilton, a mail clerk with EverBank in Jacksonville, Florida, who happens to have Down syndrome and Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville Executive Director Debbie Revels.

“In every office all employees has different abilities, unique job descriptions, different daily tasks and work to be members of productive teams. For people with Down syndrome in the work place, this is no different, however, the opportunities for full-time, meaningful and equal pay for few and far between for individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities,” said NDSS President Sara Hart Weir. “#DSWORKS has a simple goal – break down barriers to employment and create meaningful employment opportunities for people with Down syndrome.”

“Being Cole’s mom opened my eyes to the disabilities community and gave me a new perspective on my role as a legislator,” said McMorris Rodgers. “He is a daily reminder that every human life has potential and something unique to offer the world. Having worked on ABLE Act legislation over the years, I’m especially grateful for the National Down Syndrome Society’s leadership and their #DSWORKS initiative. The NDSS works hard every single day to reaffirm the American commitment we’ve championed since our founding — that no matter your background or your walk of life, this country is a place where you are empowered to achieve a better, more fulfilling life.”

#DSWORKS will include three important components – developing employment resources for employers, families, self-advocates and local Down syndrome organizations, advancing a comprehensive federal and state legislation agenda that breaks down barriers to employment and creates incentives to hire individuals with Down syndrome and launching a NDSS corporate roundtable of corporations committed to hiring individuals with Down syndrome.

"The National Organization on Disability applauds and supports the new #DSWORKS Campaign," said Gov. Tom Ridge, NOD Chairman. "This new campaign meshes perfectly with the work we at NOD have been doing to help businesses hire more people with disabilities at all levels within their organization. The #DSWORKS Campaign gets it right by demonstrating not only how employers can benefit from attracting employees with Down syndrome, but also how those companies can successfully integrate individuals with disabilities – and see the results in the form of dedicated employees and increased employee engagement across their workforce."

Through #DSWORKS, NDSS will be championing legislation to lift unnecessary burdens placed on people with Down syndrome, so that we can level the playing field for employment. The largest leap taken in over 25 years has been the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act in 2014, which was a game changer for people with Down syndrome – it allows individuals with disabilities to save their own money in tax-free 529 accounts while remaining on federal benefits.

“I wholeheartedly support the goals of the #DSWORKS initiative,” said ABLE Act Champion Senator Burr (R-NC). “The benefits of participating in the workplace extend far beyond earning an income; work helps all Americans find a place in their community and build a sense of purpose. For far too long, our society has failed to appreciate the abilities and unique gifts of Americans with disabilities like Down Syndrome. Through employment, individuals with disabilities enrich not only their own lives, but the lives of everyone they work with. I’m proud to have sponsored the ABLE Act and have introduced additional bills to expand job opportunities and financial planning options for disabled Americans.” 

Last week, Congress took the ABLE Act one step further and introduced a package of bills to improve the ABLE Act. Most notably, the new ABLE to Work Act expands on the bipartisan ABLE Act to allow individuals with Down syndrome to contribute their own paychecks to their ABLE Accounts beyond the current annual gift tax limit of $14,000. The ABLE to Work Act allows beneficiaries to save their own money up to the poverty line, and raises the annual amount for employed ABLE beneficiaries to almost $26,000.

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ABOUT NDSS 

The National Down Syndrome Society is a nonprofit organization with more than 350 affiliates nationwide representing over 400,000 Americans who have Down syndrome.  The mission of NDSS is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.  NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming communities. For more information visit www.ndss.org. 

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