Hundreds set to rally at State House for disability rights

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - On Wednesday morning, an effort to help those with disabilities will be underway at the State House.

Organizers of the Advocacy Day for Access & Independence, which is in its fifth year, hope it will begin a conversation about more resources in the state.

Several topics they are advocating for include public access, transportation, housing, and employment. Robbie Kopp, one of the Directors for Able South Carolina, explained the gap in employment those with disabilities still have to cross.

"There are over four thousand individuals in our state that currently work in sheltered workshop settings where they may make less than the minimum wage. Currently allowable by federal labor rules. We hate this. We think that it's really bad for our culture," Kopp said. "It's really bad for our people with disabilities. There are news stories from across the country where other things kind of are brought to light where people are making 11 cents, 22 cents an hour."

The Employment First Initiative Act  is one of the pieces of legislation that may help address employment issues for those with disabilities. The act has passed the state house of representatives and is in the state senate. If passed, it would set up a state commission to look at employment issues and the barriers to employment for people with disabilities.

Kopp also says that at the state level, South Carolina doesn't have a person in place to address any issues that pertain to the Americans With Disabilities Act. He says that is something that needs to change.

"The state of South Carolina does not have a named and trained ADA coordinator, so if there are ADA issues or concerns, there's no local catch for getting those issues before they go to the department of justice and turning into an investigation. That person has a lot of broad reaching authority to kind of look at programs and offer suggestions and we don't have any of that infrastructure," Kopp said.

Before the rally, organizers, participants and advocates will get to have breakfast with their legislators as a more personal approach to talk about legislation.

The rally starts at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning. SC Treasurer Curtis Loftis, SC Secretary of Education Molly Spearman, and Richland County District 72 Representative James Smith will be among the speakers.

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