The Central Texas Walk-N-Roll Celebration is held to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The free event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Heritage Square in downtown Waco.
Walk-N-Roll is focused on making the community aware that people with disabilities are just as capable as any other employee. The event will feature a short walk with people of varying disabilities, as well as music and food.
“Our goal is to make the community more aware that people with disabilities are very capable of working,” said Laura Lupfer, member of the Waco Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities.
Having people with disabilities that are blind, visually impaired or in wheel chairs participating in the walk a
llows the community to understand how qualified they are, Lupfer said.
The employment rate in 2008 for disabled people ages 12-64 in Texas was 42.9 percent, which is approximately 10 points higher than the national average, according to Cornell University. In 2013 the employment rate decreased to 38.8 percent.
“I’ve got some personal disabilities myself, and I’ve always known that people can work,” Lupfer said. “Unfortunately, a lot of the community thinks that people with disabilities are automatically not going to be able to work for one reason or another. So we’re trying to change that.”
Dylan Turner, a regular Walk-N-Roll participant, has been visually impaired since birth. This year he will participate as a vendor during the event selling key chains, lanyards and other beadwork. The idea for the business started when he was young, and he helped his dad work on cars.
“Being visually impaired, I just enjoy getting to go out in the community and meet new people,” Turner said. “I decided I want to be involved, so I started making key chains. I wanted to show people my potential.”
Agencies and vendors will be available after the walk to provide information and guidance about going back to school, learning how to write resumes and entering the workforce. Agencies and vendors include McLennan Community College, National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.
Brandy Abel-Clark, vocational specialist with The Opportunity Center of the Arc of McLennan County and vendor at Walk-N-Roll, said the community is now looking at people with disabilities and seeing their true potential. They want to make sure their clients have the opportunity to attend the event because it will offer families and community members who struggle with disabilities a wealth of information, Abel-Clark said.
The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services will sponsor Walk-N-Roll. According to their website, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services administers programs that ensure Texas is a state where people with disabilities, and children with developmental delays, can experience the same opportunities as others to live independent and productive lives.
Walk-N-Roll is not intended just for employers and the community to be more aware. It is also an opportunity for people with disabilities to understand that there are opportunities available to them.
“We do want to make people aware that there are people with disabilities that make very good employees,” Lupfer said. “For people with disabilities, they also need to know that there are a lot of agencies in this area that help with the disabilities they may have.”