New department of disability rights could knock down bureaucratic barriers, supporters say
It isn’t often that Pennsylvania creates a new department, but that is what Jessica Benham is trying to accomplish.
The Allegheny County Democrat is trying to create the Department of Disability Rights, Employment, Accessibility and Mobility, or DREAM, after a previous attempt never made it to the floor.
Benham said the department is necessary given the complicated nature of navigating government bureaucracy.
“And that becomes even more complicated potentially when somebody has a disability,” she said. “We don’t make a lot of these services easily accessible for folks.”
Her goal is to streamline the system as best as possible.
This means moving certain offices out of other departments. For example, the Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is housed under the Department of Labor and Industry.
Benham said it would be easier for people to receive the services they need from a specialized department.
Benham is co-sponsoring the legislation with Reps. Jason Ortitay, R- Allegheny, and Rep. Dan L. Miller, D-Allegheny.
Ortitay said the department would make it easier for those with disabilities to get the aid they need.
“Many times, people with disabilities and their families are unsure of where to go to access the services they need to live independent and full lives,” he said. “By creating this department, it will ease this burden and help better coordinate services.”
Miller said disabilities are part of the human condition and should be properly recognized by leadership.
“We want to be sure that the lens of policy runs through disability and that it starts, in the beginning of the process, not as a secondary or tertiary afterthought,” he said.