SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — SPARC CEO Greg O’Connor said there are far fewer people with disabilities working for state agencies than there were ten years ago. His organization advocates for those workers, and he believes Illinois’ new internship program will create more full-time opportunities for them.
“For the folks that we support, work gives them options, because they get paid and it gives them dignity because they are productive,” O’Connor said. “This at least gives them the dignity part.”
The training program is unpaid, and will require the intern to put in 20 hours a week working, but they will be doing real work for the agency — not just busy work.
Senator Julie Morrison sponsored the bill in the senate.
She said in a statement, “Having a job means having dignity, independence and purpose, regardless of whether or not an individual has a disability. The state of Illinois should be a leader in showing that individuals with disabilities are just as capable in the workplace and have a valued role in contributing to our state and our economy.”
Though the law only requires large state agencies to hire interns, Morrison is hoping that constitutional officers will hop on board too, and at least one is already prepared to do so.
“Our office is looking at the new law. our intent is to follow through, and to do it,” a spokesperson for the Secretary of State said. “Our office worked closely with the sponsors on this legislation.”
Since the program only requires each agency to hire one person, advocates know there is a long way to go.
But that does not take away from its importance.
“This is at least step one. it gives you some options,” O’Connor said.