I know what it is like to deal with adversity. I am legally blind from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative genetic eye disease. You can get some quick context on my experience with blindness from my interview with ABC News:
I was diagnosed in February of 2018. In April of 2018, I became a student at the Training and Adjustment School at the Utah State Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. There I learned how to read and write in Braille, how to travel independently with a long white cane, how to use a computer non-visually, how to cook and clean without vision, and continue to enjoy carpentry despite my blindness.
This program made it possible for me to be able to remain employed and continue to provide financially for my own family. By funding six months of rehabilitation training (which costs the state about $18,000 total), the state of Utah was able to ensure that I did not become dependent on disability income for the rest of my adult life (which would have cost over $1 million just in SSDI payments). That’s a pretty great return on investment for our taxpayers.
It is critical that we continue to fund state vocational rehabilitation programs that help the disabled to be able to become and remain able to provide for their own families. In the long run it can save the taxpayers a huge amount of money, but more importantly it ensures that people with disabilities are able to have the dignity of earning their own way, and that they will have the ability to compete on terms of equality in the workforce.
I have been a strong advocate for people with disabilities. I currently serve as a member of the Governor’s Committee on Employment for People with Disabilities (GCEPD) as well as the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSBVI) Advisory Council. I represent the blind community of Utah on these committees.
I am a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind, an organization that is dedicated to the premise of independence and equality for the blind of America. In January 2019, I traveled to our nation’s capital to lobby for legislation that would help to protect the rights of the nation’s blind and ensure better accessibility of home appliances and medical devices. I worked with legislators of both parties on these issues.
As your legislator, I will continue to advocate for the rights of Utahns with disabilities, with a particular focus on ensuring that they have equal access to employment and that state resources are accessible to everyone. I will help to ensure that our law enforcement officials take meaningful enforcement action against those that refuse to follow the law and exclude the disabled from restaurants and other businesses. Together, we can ensure that people with disabilities in Utah can still live a full and meaningful life and be engaged citizens in the communities where they live.