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People with disabilities celebrate diversity and inclusion
TRENTON –Department of Human Services' (DHS) Commissioner Jennifer Velez today welcomed about 500 people with and without disabilities to the Disability Pride Parade in Trenton. This was New Jersey's second year hosting the parade, which began in Chicago, Illinois in 2004. The event promotes diversity, inclusion and public awareness of people with disabilities."I'm incredibly honored to be part of an event that showcases the talent, skills and capabilities of people with disabilities." said Commissioner Velez during her remarks. "Governor Christie and his Administration are firmly committed to protecting individuals with disabilities and creating opportunities for their employment. In fact, just recently, he announced an Employment First initiative in New Jersey to promote competitive employment in the general workforce for people with any type of disability."

Through Governor Christie's commitment to New Jerseyans with disabilities:

  • Negative references such as "mental retardation" have been removed from all New Jersey statutes and regulations, and replacing the terms with "intellectual disability" or "developmental disability."
  • A Central Registry of Offenders Against Individuals with Developmental Disabilities has been created. As a result, DHS now maintains a list of caregivers, who have been determined by investigation to have abused, neglected or exploited an individual with a disability.
  • DHS partnered with the DCA to launch the Special Needs Housing Partnership Program to expand housing opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Approximately $56 million in state and federal funding was appropriated in FY'13 to advance opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and mental illness to secure community-based supportive housing.

Today's parade began on West State Street in front of the State House and stopped on Lafayette Street, where music and entertainment was provided in addition to information tables about organizations serving people with disabilities. The day-long event was organized by the Alliance Center for Independence in Edison, one of 11 Independent Living Centers in the state, dedicated to serving people with disabilities.

In recognition of Disability Employment Awareness Month, a featured aspect of the event included videos, produced by DHS, of workers with disabilities telling their personal stories. Individuals with physical and developmental disabilities share their thoughts and feelings about their employment.

"Disability is a natural part of life and part of the human experience," said Joseph Amoroso, Director of DHS' Division of Disability Services as he addressed the crowd and discussed his own disability - living with Cerebral Palsy and using a wheelchair. "Today, we are united with pride, dignity and respect for each other and our collective experience."

The Division is the state's point of entry for disability services and responds to as many as 15,000 requests each year for Information and Referral Assistance on issues affecting people with any type of disability in New Jersey.

The DDS toll free hotline is 1-888-285-3036 and more information can be found on the DDS website.

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