Laurel Hotelling, 51, is the oldest of Wayne and Elaine Hotelling’s four children and she grew up in Silver Creek, New York. She has worked at The Resource Center (TRC) there for 30 years.
When Laurel was born, doctors recommended the infant be institutionalized. They knew this child had Down syndrome, but didn’t tell her parents the truth for years. With the support of her parents, Laurel attended regular kindergarten and then the special education program in the Chautauqua County Schools. She graduated at age 21.
When Laurel came to The Resource Center, she was placed in an extensive training program to identify and evaluate her skills. After the assessment, it was decided that Laurel would excel at assembly line work, in part due to her small stature. Laurel also expressed a desire to work with her hands. The Resource Center has become Laurel’s lifeline. From Monday through Friday she is busy working and occupied with other activities. She is surrounded by friends that make up a significant part of her social life. And even though the amount of money she earns is the least of her concerns, Laurel gets a paycheck from TRC every week. Like her brothers and sisters, she shares the pride of getting paid for a job well done – along with the boost to her self-esteem
that comes from making her own money.
Laurel also has a wonderful work ethic that has been enhanced through the socialization she receives at TRC. In fact, she’s such a dedicated worker that one winter day when the TRC van couldn’t pick her up, she was very distraught. Laurel waited and waited. She was very disappointed that she couldn’t get to work that day. Laurel’s journey to The Resource Center wasn’t always smooth. Her parents remember the day the county’s school bus driver refused to allow her on his bus because of her disability. She was just a young girl, ready with her backpack, enthused and excited to be going to school. But something beautiful happened: a few of her peers came to her side and escorted her to school on the bus. They took a stand for her, and before long Laurel was recognized as the best student on the bus. She has been a great success in the community since then, and so Wayne and Elaine Hotelling established the Laurel
Run in their daughter’s honor as a way for the disability community be recognized and supported. Laurel is now a local celebrity.
The 18th annual Laurel Run took place in April 2014. Laurel’s Lap is a special part of the Run; a way for anyone with a disability to take part. The event now includes an 8k run, a walk, and a children’s run – and has generated a real acceptance of the disability community. All of the funds generated by the Laurel Run go directly to support individuals with disabilities. Laurel’s parents often wonder what she would do without The Resource Center. What would she do with her time? What do you do when you have nowhere to work and nowhere to go? The truth for Laurel is that she lives in a rural setting where unemployment is high and public transportation is non-existent. Is there even a job in the community that she can do and do well? The Resource Center is so much more than where she works. It is the center of her social world. It’s where she goes to meet people and be with her friends, some of whom she’s known for more than 40 years.
Her parents are also painfully aware of the consequences if the center closes. It would mean Laurel would rarely, if ever, see her friends. She might find a job in the community, but she would be devastated – and so would they. Can another employer provide the emotional support Laurel needs? Do they have a job for someone with very little body strength, but a great work ethic?
Facilities like The Resource Center meet a very real need for thousands of disabled American workers and their families. Wayne and Elaine Hotelling will tell you that when Laurel was growing up they worried constantly about whether or not she would ever walk, talk, or develop at the rate of other children. Now, with the help of resources and services at the center, they look at Laurel and simply marvel, “What a tremendous young lady.” •
What is ACCSES?
ACCSES, the voice of disability service providers across the nation, supports the
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in July 2014. WIOA seeks to address the high unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities by reauthorizing and reforming core workforce
development programs and by transferring independent living program functions from the Department of Education to the Department of Health and Human Services.
One of WIOA’s provisions is Section 511 of the Rehabilitation Act, which limits the use of commensurate wage by requiring that individuals under 24 meet the following criteria before being offered employment in a skill development center:
• The individual has received pre-employment transition services
• The individual has applied for vocational rehabilitation services
• The individual has been working in a competitive setting with appropriate supports and services for a reasonable period of time without success.
ACCSES supports WIOA and Section 511 because this legislation works for thousands of people like Laurel who choose employment in a skill development center and are currently unable to successfully work in competitive employment, even with appropriate supports and service. “Jobs and choice must be recognized,” says ACCSES CEO Terry
Farmer, “and we are encouraged by the bipartisan support of WIOA. Decisions about where an individual can and should work should be made by the individual, his or her loved ones, and the professionals who know the individual best, not regulators and lawmakers in Washington. Person-centered planning is the core strategy used by disability service providers.”
ACCSES represents more than 1,200 disability service providers across the country. ACCSES works to promote and enhance community-based solutions that maximize person-centered employment and living opportunities for people with disabilities. Through collaboration with government and other stakeholders, ACCSES assures
that services recognize and support the full potential of each person with a disability. Learn more at www.accses.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Andrea Parr works in marketing for ACCSES, an organization of service providers that “work to promote and enhance community-based solutions that maximize employment, health and living opportunities for people with disabilities.”