From Left to Right: New York Stock Exchange Global Head of Listings and Services, Chris Taylor, National Down Syndrome Society President and CEO, Sara Hart Weir, Self Advocate, Emma Mandel, and Voya Financial Chairman and CEO, Rodney O. Martin, Jr.

C21 Atlanta serves up a night of awareness for disability employment

The C21 event, named for the extra twenty-first chromosome that is characteristic of people with Down syndrome, is traveling to cities across the country, demonstrating to the world that individuals with Down syndrome are ready, willing, and able to work.

The C21 events support the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act—bipartisan legislation intended to remove significant barriers to employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This legislation seeks to responsibility phase out an 80-year-old law in section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which still, in 2018, allows individuals with disabilities to be paid wages less than the federal minimum wage.

The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and Voya Financial support this legislation because it will help pave the way for equality in the workplace for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

The NDSS mission and C21 events align with our Voya Cares® program, which provides holistic financial wellness and retirement planning solutions to help all Americans move closer to the future they envision – and meaningful, valued employment is an important step to achieving that future.

Read on for perspectives from two leading industry voices on providing fair employment for all individuals with disabilities.

For more information on how you can support the TIME Act, visit LawSyndrome.org.

By Sara Hart Weir, president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society, and Heather Lavallee, president of Tax-Exempt Markets, Voya Financial 

Imagine not being able to fulfill your dreams of a having a meaningful career, getting married or even living an independent, productive life because antiquated laws keep you from achieving economic self-sufficiency. It’s not because you’re incapable — in fact, capability is the least of your worries. It’s because you’re an individual with Down syndrome or another disability.

October is an opportunity to raise awareness for both Down syndrome and disability employment — the causes each use the month to call special attention. It’s also a chance to recognize that individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities are capable of achieving full, meaningful lives. Yet, there are a number of archaic barriers that can often keep these individuals from pursuing meaningful careers, because they could lose access to essential benefits like Social Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

With support from Voya, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is advocating for equal rights for all individuals with Down syndrome through a unique pop-up dining experience known as C21. Named for the extra 21st chromosome characteristic of Down syndrome, the goal of C21 is to demonstrate to the world that individuals with Down syndrome are ready, willing and able to work. The event is run by self-advocates with Down syndrome; they handle everything from bartending and waiting on tables to hosting and serving as the restaurant’s general manager.

C21 has already made appearances in Washington, D.C. and New York City, and came to the Atlanta History Center on Tuesday, Oct. 9. With a growing economy and many industry-leading organizations in Atlanta, it was a clear choice for where to head to next. Atlanta’s diverse culture and history also played an important role in the decision. Together, Voya and NDSS are advocating for equal rights for all individuals with disabilities and helping raise awareness with this unique campaign.

At Voya, it is believed that all Americans deserve the secure financial future that they dream of— especially the community of those with special needs and disabilities, who sometimes struggle to be welcomed into the workforce. C21’s mission closely aligns with Voya’s broader focus to help all Americans move closer to the future they envision — and meaningful, valued employment opportunities are an important step to achieving that future.

During the remainder of this year and into early 2019, NDSS and Voya will continue to call attention to a series of antiquated laws that hinder individuals with disabilities such as Down syndrome from pursuing their career aspirations and living independently. Current efforts focus on the passage of the bipartisan H.R.1377, Transitioning to Integrated, Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act. This legislation seeks to responsibly phase out an 80-year-old provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which, even in 2018, continues to allow certain employers to pay wages lower than the federal minimum wage to workers who have disabilities. Imagine the impact that the removal of antiquated laws will have on the future of the workforce for individuals with disabilities by creating new opportunities in the workplace and broader community.

People with Down syndrome and other disabilities are ready, willing and able to work in an environment that promotes fair and equal wages and employment opportunities. That is the future of the workforce, and Voya and NDSS are proud to provide these individuals with the support and platform on which they can confidently stand.


Disclosures: 
Sara Hart Weir is the president and CEO of the National Down Syndrome Society. Heather Lavallee is the president of Tax-Exempt Markets for Voya Financial and executive sponsor of the Voya Cares Center of Excellence. Products and services offered through the Voya® family of companies.
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