I was thrilled when Senator Bob Casey agreed to be a guest blogger for Autism Awareness month during his recent visit to Erie and the Barber National Institute. His tireless efforts in the Capitol have made such a wonderful impact. I’m honored to share his words with you today.
Eight years ago, a group of parents came to Congress, asking for help with a pressing issue- adequately saving for their children’s future. Among these parents was a gentleman named Steve Beck, who knew firsthand the challenges many families face when a loved one has a disability. Faced with a lifetime of extraordinary expenses, parents are told not to save or put assets in their child’s name. Thanks to Steve and other countless parents, we were able to change this dynamic with the passage of the ABLE Act.
This law will impact many individuals. One person is a woman named Sara Wolff. Sara is from my home county of Lackawanna County. She is someone who has a disability but is very able. She is a law clerk, a well-known speaker and a dynamic person who is an inspiration to many, including me. And in this month, when we celebrate Autism Awareness Month, I want to commend the dedication and commitment of people who are, to borrow a phrase from the Bible, like ‘laborers in the vineyard’ fighting battles on behalf of those who have disabilities.
Throughout my time in public office I have worked to improve and expand opportunities for people with disabilities, and to support those with disabilities such as Autism throughout their lives. In caring for and supporting people with disabilities we must ensure they have access to support services and a health care workforce that allows them to achieve everything they wish to and can achieve.
Thanks to the continued hard work of disability advocates and families, we are seeing widespread adoption of state implementing legislation—the vast majority of states have enacted laws to pave the way for the opening of ABLE accounts. I’m especially pleased that the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed and the Governor recently signed implementing legislation so that families across the Commonwealth can soon begin to open ABLE accounts. Shortly before the ABLE Act was passed by Congress in 2014 Steve Beck passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. The progress of the ABLE Act in so many states is a testament to his vision and tireless advocacy.
The ABLE Act is grounded in a simple but vitally important belief—that people with disabilities have a lot of ability. That they can not only contribute substantially to our quality of life and the success of our nation, but if we give them some tools, they can lead as full a life as possible. That’s the belief that has guided us in this effort.
Autism Awareness Month stresses the need to recognize, understand, and study autism. We need to continue our research efforts to understand the causes of autism and look at ways to help individuals reach their full potential. I look forward to joining you in those battles along the way.