Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Louisiana tries to assist people with disabilities to gain employment


BATON ROUGE, La. - New figures released July 24 show an alarming increase in the unemployment rate for metro Baton Rouge and Louisiana as a whole.

In Baton Rouge the unemployment rate jumped to 7.4%. That's an increase of nearly 1.5%. It's about the same in metro New Orleans. Shreveport is at the bottom of the heap among metro areas. In Baton Rouge more than 28,000 people are out of work.

Now imagine being unemployed...and disabled.

The Department of Social Services has teamed up with local groups to help make things a little easier for people with special needs.

Through local partnerships, DSS and Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, disabled people get the things they need to start working. In some cases the groups have provided prosthetic devices like arms and legs.

The program helped Jamie Womack, who has cerebral palsy, get her college degree. Womack says despite laws in place that should protect the disabled, the discrimination she and others face can be blatant and hurtful.

"It's very frustrating and it really goes right to the core of me. It really kind of strips me of my dignity as a person," says Womack.

The LSU graduate is now a Christian school teacher in Erwinville.

"My disability is strictly physical. God has blessed me with a tremendous mind," Womack says.

Her struggle is a familiar one to Mark Martin with LRS. His group has helped to find jobs for nearly 30, 000 people with disabilities in Louisiana.

"It's a difficult job market right now. And we're thankful that we have the employers that are so kind to us," Martin says.