Learn about the History of Disability  in the Delaware Disability History and Awareness Month

In the past, people with disabilities of all ages were shut away and ignored, cast off by families and society, or ridiculed because of their differences. 

Thankfully that is continuing to change due in part to significant changes in governing law. The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA is thirty years old this year. It was a cornerstone piece of legislation that made a tremendous impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Like all cornerstones, it is a place to build.

Delaware Disability Hub is a transition website for youth with disabilities and has a comprehensive Disability Timeline starting in 400 B.C to the current time.  The 44-page timeline is viewable online or can be downloaded as a PDF. The language in the timeline is representative of the time.

We have come a long way from the dark ages of disabilities to current times yet, still have a way to go. When fears of difference are overcome and we view each other as differently-abled, humanity will have made great strides in accepting the disability community and all people.

Delaware Disability Hub is a special project of the GACEC.  For more information call 302-739-4553


October is Delaware Disability History and Awareness Month

October is Delaware Disability History and Awareness Month (DHAM). You may access information on DHAM on the GACEC website.

Individuals with disabilities have played a vital role in influencing our nation’s history. It is essential that we develop a spirit of acceptance of all people, in our students, particularly our young children. Governor Markell signed House Bill 123 on August 17, 2011, designating October as Disability History and Awareness Month. That bill encourages school districts across Delaware to implement activities to observe Disability History and Awareness Month. House Concurrent Resolution 33, passed in 2013, proclaimed the month of October to be “Disability History and Awareness Month” in Delaware.  The bill encouraged all Delaware childhood development centers and family-based pre-schools and childcare programs to provide instruction and events focusing on disability history, people with disabilities and the disability rights movement.

The Resource Guide outlines House Bill 123 Disability History and Awareness Month (DHAM). and was developed specifically for children.

On the GACEC website is a free downloadable version of the GACEC DEAP produced books, “All My Different Friends at School” and the “There’s Nothing to Fear” coloring book.  Daycare providers who call the GACEC will receive a softcover copy of “All My Different Friends at School” and the coloring book while supplies last.

If you have any questions on the information provided, please contact the GACEC at 302-739-4553


Department of Finance & The Precisionists, Inc. Launch Autism at Work Program

The State of Delaware Department of Finance recently began collaborating with The Precisionists (TPI), a Wilmington, Del.-based organization focused on employment for adults with disabilities. The pilot program, about to celebrate its first anniversary, uses the talents of a team of autistic adults from TPI’s workforce to tackle critical business needs within the Department of Finance’s Division of Revenue (DOR).

“When properly assessed and trained, people with autism are extremely high-performing employees working in critical and challenging jobs such as administrative business functions, including scanning documents and data entry, software testing, website QA, and data analytics,” said Ernie Dianastasis, CEO of The Precisionists. “When you consider that more than 80 percent of people with autism in the country are either unemployed or underemployed, we are making a true difference in engaging a significant, untapped labor force. We are thrilled to partner on this project with the State of Delaware Department of Finance, which continues to demonstrate leadership and commitment to the community.”

TPI identified, assessed, and trained its employees participating in the pilot program. Since January 2020, a TPI team consisting of several data analysts and a project lead have been fully integrated with the Delaware DOR team in Wilmington to support DOR’s Personal Income Tax Returns Processing and Business License Processing functions. For personal income tax returns, TPI team members receive, resolve, and process exceptions to tax return filings. For business licenses, TPI team members receive new applications and renewals for data entry into the system and processing.

“The Precisionists has created an innovative model focused on helping organizations excel by bringing the talents and strengths of people with diverse abilities into the workforce,” said Rick Geisenberger, Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Finance. “Our Department is thrilled to be part of this effort that aligns so well with our values under the leadership of Governor Carney, and strengthens our ability to continuously improve the services we provide to our customers and the State’s taxpayers.”

“The work being done by the TPI Associates has provided needed support and continuous improvement to the Division of Revenue. The resources they have provided have enabled us to better manage our day-to-day operations. The employees from The Precisionists are reliable contributors to our team,” said Jennifer Hudson, Director of the Division of Revenue.

Those participating in the pilot go through a comprehensive four-week training program. As part of the pilot program, the State of Delaware hopes to identify additional opportunities to expand this employment model to other parts of the business, further supporting The Precisionists’ goal of employing 10,000 people with diverse abilities in the United States by 2025.

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About the State of Delaware Department of Finance and Division of Revenue
The Delaware Department of Finance’s mission is to promote Delaware’s fiscal health fairly and efficiently by forecasting, generating, collecting, and accounting for funds critical to essential government services.
As the primary revenue collector for the State, the mission of the Division of Revenue is to serve the State of Delaware by administering tax laws in a fair, secure, and efficient manner that creates the highest possible level of satisfaction for taxpayers and stakeholders and provides revenues that support quality public services.

To learn more, visit https://finance.delaware.gov/about-finance/ and https://revenue.delaware.gov.

About The Precisionists, Inc. (TPI)
The Precisionists, Inc. (TPI), a Benefits Corporation, is a national company focused on providing industry best practices for delivering administrative and technology services by building teams, which include individuals with disabilities. This approach enables The Precisionists to meet each customer’s specific needs and to deliver projects with the highest degree of productivity. The Precisionists is dedicated to creating jobs for individuals with disabilities in all the markets it serves. The Precisionists, Inc. is headquartered in Wilmington, DE. Learn more at www.theprecisionists.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.

Contact:
Patricia Pfarrer
The Precisionists, Inc.
302-588-2353
Patti.Pfarrer@theprecisionists.com

Leslie A. Poland
Community Relations Coordinator
Delaware Department of Finance
302.577.8522
leslie.poland@delaware.gov


GACEC Launches New Disability Website

DelAWARE DisABILITY HUB

www.deldhub.com

 DOVER, DE- The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC), a small state agency, in the Anniversary month of the ADA or Americans With Disabilities Act, launched the Delaware Disability Hub transition website www.deldhub.com. This transition website for people with disabilities in the state and across the nation, helps youth, young adults, parents, caregivers, counselors, school administrators, caseworkers, educators and health care providers to assist students with disabilities going through the transition process.

The teen years can be difficult for the average youth, add a disability to the mix and life scenarios change. Special consideration must be given to education, employment, housing, transportation, healthcare, legal issues, community involvement and so much more. The website does just that by offering many resources to help aging youth.

Delaware Disability Hub incorporates enlarged text, a text to voice reader option with a built-in instruction guide and an internal search engine to make the website easier to navigate. 

This transition website includes a section for parents. “Parents often worry or stress over their child turning into an adult, especially if they are going to live independently. For example, many parents rule out college; however, the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware has made it possible for many students with disabilities to have the college experience,” said Wendy Strauss, the Executive Director of the GACEC.   “All colleges across the state and the nation are supposed to have an American Disability Act (ADA) Coordinator to assist college students to obtain the accommodations they need. We want parents to have the resources they need to help plan their child’s life changes.” 

The planning categories covered on DelDhub are education, employment, housing, transportation health, legal issues, It’s My Life and Understanding My Disability. Under those topics, are toolkits filled with resources linking users to federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations, vendors that assist people with disabilities and a lot of helpful information.  Each category also has videos on related topics. 

Parents, teachers and students will appreciate the transition timeline, which provides information on age-specific targets and suggested goals.

Special education teachers and transition coordinators will find lesson plans, videos and a lot of useful information in their toolkit to help parents and students.

 How did this website happen? 

In 2012, the State Transition Task Force for Emerging Adults with Disabilities and Special Healthcare Needs was charged with studying the transition process for youth and young adults ages fourteen to thirty by the State Legislature. The Task Force and workgroups comprised over one hundred participants with interests in the disability community, including state agency leaders, educators, medical service providers, parents, self-advocates, nonprofit organizations and community members. They highlighted the strengths of the current system identifying over-arching gaps in services to individuals with disabilities in the transition phase of life on housing, transportation, health, education, and employment. They concurred that the State needed a transition website.

With the support of the Council, and Secretaries of Education, Housing Transportation, Health and Social Services, Division of Services for Children, Youth and their Families and Department of Labor, and the State Legislature funding was provided and Delaware Disability Hub originally launched in 2014. The website was successful and helped many people going through transition. However, as a State website it did not have the common look and feel of other State websites. So in 2019 work began to update the site with more accessible features, add new resources and give it a new look.

Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Director, Exceptional Children Resources and Dale Matusevich, Education Associate for Secondary and Transition agreed, “Delaware Department of Education Exceptional Children Resources is proud to partner with GACEC to establish a new and improved Delaware Disability Hub (Deldhub) website for Delawareans with disabilities of all ages and their families.”

Wendy Strauss, the Executive Director of the GACEC, the small state agency responsible for bringing the website to fruition, wanted to close the gaps in Delaware and was delighted when the Task Force unanimously agreed on a transition website. “We saw a need in the state for gathering information to make it easier for the disability community to find the resources they needed quickly. This website touches on a variety of topics that will help young adults with disabilities and their families link to resources that will assist them in their journey through life,” said Strauss.

The DelAWARE DisABILITY HUB website will serve Delaware’s roughly 26,000 school-age children with disabilities. It took a great deal of planning and a lot of research to choose sections of the website and the resources to make life easier for site users. Main categories address the areas of life emerging adults will need assistance: 

Education — Realize options and potential for higher education

Employment — Guidelines for entering the workforce

Health — Take control of their health

Housing — Planning future living arrangements

It’s My Life — Exercising independent living skills and advocacy

Legal — Know their rights

Transportation — Become independently mobile

Understanding My Disability — Learn about various disabilities

In each subsection of the site, users will find valuable resources such as personal stories, frequently asked questions, toolkits filled with information and videos. 

Under Education, you will find a Higher Ed section to assist students seeking out post-secondary options and Delaware’s most comprehensive area for the Gifted and Talented students to find resources they need.

Educators will appreciate the teacher’s section on the main menu. It’s a quick access point taking them to lesson plans, videos, toolbox filled with resources and all the articles on the site.

The GACEC collaborated with hundreds of organizations across the country and Delaware to bring federal, state and nonprofit resources together to assist families. Strauss said, “We had an outpouring of kindness from across the nation as we gathered amazing amounts of information. There was no use in reinventing the wheel. Experts have done the work and now Delaware brings it all into focus. This site will make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people.”

American Disability Act (ADA) Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The ADA is celebrating it’s 30th Anniversary on July 26, 2020.   The ADA is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individual with disabilities. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, employment and telecommunications.

 

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Bill Signing Promotes Savings in the First State

Senate Bill 143, signed today by Governor Carney, will increase savings plans education

 

Treasurer Colleen C. Davis, bill sponsors Sen. Trey Paradee and Rep. Krista Griffith, and children from Brilliant Little Minds Learning Academy celebrated today as Governor John Carney signed Senate Bill 143 into law. This legislation allows the Plans Management Board and the Office of the State Treasurer to increase awareness of the benefits of saving through the 529 Education Savings Plan and through ABLE Plans for those with disabilities.

Also joining the event were Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long, Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro, Secretary of Finance Rick Geisenberger, Rep. Mike Smith, Rep. Bryan Shupe, and members of the Delaware Department of Education and the Plans Management Board. The Governor and legislators talked about their own experiences with the savings plans and discussed the importance of the bill. Treasurer Davis asked the kids from Brilliant Little Minds Learning Academy what they want to be when they grow up. “Whatever you want to be when you grow up, you have to work hard in school and save your money to make it happen. I’m so glad that we could have young people here with us as we take this step towards expanding economic opportunity and educational attainment.”

Senate Bill 143 allows the Board to pursue methods of increasing savings plan enrollments outside of the high-income earning households that traditionally participate by allowing for incentive-based marketing. Possible avenues of promotion include a scholarship program or a match plan, as seen in other states. These options will be explored by the Board at future meetings. Additionally, new promotions aimed at increasing awareness of using 529s for adult educational attainment and for non-college costs, such as apprenticeship programs, will be integrated into future marketing efforts.

“The costs of education are skyrocketing, but national enrollments in 529 plans have gone down,” Treasurer Davis said. “In Delaware, we have worked hard to share the benefits of these plans with our residents and are continuing to see new enrollments. Our nearly 22,000 accounts represent growth of 4% over the last three years, and this bill will allow us to continue to expand. Like these savings plans, Senate Bill 143 is an investment in our future.”

“America is facing a crisis when it comes to saving money for the future,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, who works as a financial advisor. “Right now, 40 percent of U.S. adults don’t have enough savings to cover even a $400 emergency – a brutal fact, which is leaving too many families one missed paycheck from a financial nightmare. We need to be doing all we can to encourage people to take advantage of savings plans, particularly the favorable products offered by our state. This bill is aimed at raising awareness of those products and examining how we can better position them to help working families in need.”

“Given the daunting cost of college education, the state of Delaware needs to do everything it can to promote college savings. Delaware has made great strides in creating accounts for those for disabilities, which will allow them to save money without sacrificing services they depend on,” said Rep. Krista Griffith, D-Fairfax. “This bill will allow Treasurer Davis to increase outreach about Delaware’s 529 plan and make more Delawareans aware of the benefits so they can invest and plan for their futures. I’m always looking to help improve accessibility to these accounts and I look forward to continued efforts in the General Assembly.”

Both tax-advantaged savings plans are available to the public, easy to open, and offer investment options so that savings can grow over time until they are used for associated costs. Learn more about our savings plans at 529.Delaware.Gov and ABLE.Delaware.Gov.