A life-long resident of the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle, Joey Wilson, 26, is a member of the developmental disability community and currently earning his associate degree through the Occupational & Life Skills (OLS) program at Bellevue College. He works part-time as a grocery clerk, and has moved from living in a group home to his own apartment.
Once he gets his associate degree he’d like to work in building maintenance, the sports industry, or potentially go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, but he thinks that the current annual income cap under the Apple Healthcare for Workers with Disabilities (AHWD) program is a barrier.
“It holds you back from reaching your full potential,” said Wilson.
“[Raising the income limit] would open the door for a lot of people for new jobs and opportunities and allow them to advance their careers. This is a very important issue. I think that something should be done because this law hasn’t been updated in around 10 years or so.”
When Cathy Murahashi, Family Engagement Coordinator for the Arc of King County, visited the OLS Citizenship class as a guest speaker, Wilson shared his experience. Murahashi asked if she could include his story in the legislative packet that the Arc of King County was presenting at the King County Board for Developmental Disabilities Legislative Forum Nov. 20, and Wilson agreed. The event had 670 attendees.
OLS students enrolled in the Citizenship course attended the forum with their instructor Herb Johnston as part of the course curriculum. “We teach our students to advocate for themselves as part of their journey to becoming independent and contributing members of society,” said Johnston. “This was an opportunity for them to learn more about the legislative process, and connect with other members of the developmental disability community.”
Wilson was fortunate to meet Noel Frame, the representative for the 36th District where he lives, to discuss the issue.
“Joey is a great example of what it means to be a citizen advocate,” said Frame. “By sharing his story, he is helping to make a difference, not only for himself, but for many others in the developmental disability community. I’m excited to explore this issue and see if we can find a solution.”
And Wilson has some advice for people facing similar barriers. “Never stop self-advocating. Reach out for issues important to you. Follow your dreams; the sky is the limit.”
Occupational & Life Skills (OLS) Bellevue College is an accredited associate degree program for adults with learning disabilities. Students identify and develop a career pathway, gain marketable, workplace-readiness skills, and complete an internship with a local business. By applying academic skills through service learning and growing interpersonal skills, students gain the confidence they need to become gainfully employed, contributing citizens who advocate for themselves and the learning disability community. For more information about BC’s OLS program, visit: https://www.bellevuecollege.edu/ols or contact Maile Allen at 206-564-5203, firstname.lastname@example.org.
OLS will hold a College Bound Resource Fair for Students with Disabilities on Feb. 3, 2018, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.: https://www.bellevuecollege.edu/ols/college-bound/.