Congressman Jim Langevin recently visited Work Opportunities Unlimited, meeting with 15 participants of the organization’s Job Club, who spoke honestly and passionately about their experiences in the workforce. These clients spotlighted the positives of having Work Opportunities Unlimited as a resource, and discussed the challenges they face, such as access to transportation and feeling discriminated against because of how they look, act or speak.

congressman_langevinAs the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Langevin has a personal interest in disabilities issues. In 1980, at age 16, Langevin became paralyzed as a result of an accidental shooting.

“The Congressman and the Work Opportunities Unlimited clients had such an engaging and meaningful conversation. Our clients spoke from the heart about their experiences, and their messages were so authentic, positive and uplifting,” explained Trisha Wagner, Director of Work Opportunities Unlimited’s Providence, RI office.

During the discussion, Langevin shared his personal struggles with his disability, telling the Work Opportunities Unlimited clients that he, too, faces challenges.

“Listening to the members of the Work Opportunities Unlimited Job Club reminded me of the barriers that many people with disabilities still face in their search for employment. We still face roadblocks to full integration, and we must take every opportunity to surmount them,” said Congressman Langevin, who co-chairs the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus in Congress.

“It is very important that we have people and programs in the community that help others train for and acquire employment.,” Langevin continued. “The wonderful people I met at the Job Club are willing, eager and capable of working. They are enthusiastic, and shared with me their desire to be a valued member of a team. This is why I believe programs like Work Opportunities Unlimited are truly valuable. This group is bringing to light the fact that people with disabilities can make not just good, but excellent, employees.”

Wagner met the Congressman at a community event and talked to him about Work Opportunities Unlimited’s mission, explaining how they help people overcome barriers and become contributing members of the workforce and the community. Impressed, Langevin requested a site visit to learn more.

Since his visit, Langevin’s office has referred several individuals to the organization and has also asked Wagner to provide the Congressman with long-term ideas about better integrating people with disabilities into the workforce. Additionally, he requested her feedback about barriers, such as transportation issues that prevent people with disabilities from getting to job sites easily and reliably.

“I’m excited that the Congressman wants more information and ideas from me, and I’m delighted to be part of the solution,” Wagner explained. “Langevin also invited me to some local events where I’ve networked with key decision-makers, spotlighting Work Opportunities Unlimited’s mission. Ultimately, I hope these influencers will help eradicate the stigmas around disabilities and assist people in overcoming barriers and finding meaningful employment.”