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September 8, 2022
Social Mission: Able South Carolina
When it comes to advocating for disability rights and justice, Able South Carolina is not only leading the charge in our state, but their efforts are also causing major ripple effects nationwide and beyond. Whether it is speaking out for fair employment and housing opportunities or standing up for equal access to transportation and educational opportunities, Able South Carolina is helping individuals with disabilities build confidence, community, and connection, and encouraging them to always be their own advocate.
Eight years ago, Advocacy Day for Access & Independence was created an initiative in the State Plan for Independent Living in 2014. That first event brought three hundred South Carolinians together and was an opportunity to speak openly about the everyday challenges faced by those with disabilities. Over the years, Advocacy Day has created many more conversations surrounding disability rights and forged deeper connections between law makers and community members. To date, this single day event held each April welcomes members from over 30 participating organizations across South Carolina to the State House and addresses systemic “barriers” in place against individuals with disabilities.
Advocating for change, however, does not stop with one large gathering per year. Able South Carolina is constantly working with local, state, and national law makers to promote access, equity, and inclusion for all people with disabilities. They also work to draw attention to areas in which severe limitations are place on disabled people because of state and national jurisdictions.
One major topic of conversation in recent years has been a focus on employment barriers and the persistence of subminimum wage payments to people with disabilities. Even with the passing of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, meant to protect individuals with disabilities from employment and wage discrimination, there is still a loophole to be found. The Fair Labor Standards Act, established in 1938, has allowed employers to pay their workers less than minimum wage if it is deemed their productivity at work may be impacted. Facilities called “sheltered workshops” or “employment training centers” are often hubs for this behavior and employees with disabilities are paid only pennies on the dollar.
Angela Greene, worked in a sheltered workshop for 21 years between 1994 – 2015. She had a Monday – Friday schedule and was paid only $3.00 per hour. “If I could put into words my experiences in a sheltered workshop, what words would they be? Undervalued, not appreciated, low expectations, no potential,” said Angela. “I always believed that community employment was possible, but I didn’t always have the support to achieve employment.”
In 2015, Angela moved to a new agency that allowed her to explore her creativity and talents rather than try and fit her into a box. Now she works at the University of South Carolina as a dining room attendant, is working towards her GED, and is a founding member and current secretary of IMPACT SC.
Angela shared her story to an attentive crowd this April during Advocacy Day for Access and Independence as she and several others spoke about their unfair treatment during employment and the importance of dismantling subminimum wage. In May of 2022, Able South Carolina was able to celebrate a major legislative milestone when the bill to end subminimum wage in South Carolina was signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster. The passing of this bill makes South Carolina only the twelfth state nationwide and third in the Southeast to break away from federal law, signifying one of the biggest changes in disability rights in the state to date.
“Ending subminimum wage is finally employment justice for people with disabilities!” Said Kimberly Tissot, President, and CEO of Able South Carolina. “We are thrilled by the result, ensuring that people with disabilities are valued and equal members of South Carolina’s competitive workforce.”
While Able South Carolina has achieved many incredible feats in their activism over the past several years, they know there is still much to be done and many more areas for improvement. They continue to focus on their mission to equip, educate, and advocate for individuals with disabilities and aim to serve as a place for individuals to come together and make our state a more inclusive place for everyone.
To learn more about Able South Carolina programs and volunteer opportunities offered within your community, visit able-sc.org. You can also follow their social media platforms for the latest news and updates! (@able_sc)