Chad E. Iwertz
Willamette Valley Voices 4, pp. 128–39
Publication year: 2014

Despite the social stigma often attached to disability, disabled people make up 6% of the employed workforce in Oregon as of 2009, and the percentage of employed disabled people in Oregon has remained above the national average for over 5 years. As small a victory as this may seem within the larger battle against applied assumptions against disabled people in the workforce, this statistic represents the larger historical significance of those working in Oregon who also identify with any one of a multitude of disabilities, as well as the significance of Oregon’s own Disability Rights organizations in and around 1975 which continue to operate today. This paper will traces the triumphs, failures, influence, and (at times) friction of two mid-Willamette-based organizations that have supported people with disabilities who seek employment: Oregon’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (OVRS) and the federally-mandated private nonprofit State Independent Living Council (SILC), both of which operate within Salem. Retelling the stories of these two organizations, this article explores how Oregon’s Disability Rights Movement led to and eventually madated that the modern workforce of disabled people be treated as capable, independent indivuduals who could and should be equal participants in their laboring communities.