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Politics & Government

Gov. Markell touts work program for people with disabilities

Delaware Public Media

Nearly 250 young people with disabilities have enrolled in a state program to connect them with a job, which state officials are calling a success.

Founded in 2015 with the help of Gov. Jack Markell (D), Pathways to Employment connects people with disabilities to career coaches, transportation to work and helps them learn how to manage their paycheck.

That push push to get companies to hire people with disabilities has been a big help for 21-year-old Jakai Walker of Wilmington.

Delaware Park hired him about a month ago and he eventually began working in the kitchen.

Walker takes out the trash and helps wash dishes, something his mother, Raymonda Demby, says he’s loved to do since he was a kid, even taking neighbors’ trash to the corner on garbage day by himself.

“At that age, [Jakai] always wanted to work. It wasn’t about the check, it was just a part for him to be able to use his life skills and show people that he was capable of doing something,” Demby said.

She says without help from the program, she doesn’t think many companies would give people like her son a shot at a job.

During a press event at Delaware Park Tuesday, Markell said that shouldn't be the attitude employers should have. Those with disabilites are well-suited for certain jobs that are critical to running a business, like cleaning, organizing and maintenance, he said.

Markell notes that teaching people with disabilities these life skills also give parents hope for their children’s future.

“So many parents before this kind of program just had to watch their kids sit at home all day, not having anything to do and now they know that they’re constructive, they’re productive, they’re working, they’re contributing. That’s all any parent really wants,” he said.

Markell made similar proposals while he headed the National Governor’s Association from 2012-2013, urging companies to give these workers a chance.

Beginning in 2017, Delaware companies who hire people with disabilities could also be eligible for a tax credit.

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