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State IT investment gives more dignity to disabled

Wed, Jul 25, 2012

An Illinois Senate bill signed by Gov. Pat Quinn last year has indirectly given some disabled Illinois residents more dignity in their work. The Technology Development Act II (TDA II) allows for a greater investment in venture capital for technology businesses in the state. As a result, it opens up more jobs that disabled people are capable of doing.

Such jobs could improve the lives of disabled workers, said Laura Owens, executive director of the Association of Persons for Sup-ported Employment (APSE), an organization focused on integrated employment and career advancement opportunities for people with disabilities. “Technology jobs typically have embedded accommodations because technology is accommodations for people with disabilities,” said Owens.

Technology jobs also often come with a more prestigious job title than those that disabled individuals often have, such as those in the service industry, Owens explained. Jobs in the technology industry can offer higher-level positions and better wages, thus furthering the dignity and equality of people with disabilities.

“The technology industry is one that has a plethora of employment opportunities with people across the board,” Owens said. “I think [the bill] will open up doors and opportunities for people with disabilities.”

The bill amends TDA I to allow for up to two percent of the state’s investment portfolio to be invested in technology-focused venture capital funds. This increase of one percent could lead to $150 – $200 million in new venture capital investments in Illinois, according to prepared material from Tech America, an advocacy group that represents 1,000 technology companies of various sizes.

Senate Bill 107 has the potential to benefit more than just disabled workers. Employees of all abilities will be able to contribute more money to the economy through taxes, thus further stimulating the economy and lowering unemployment rates.

“Passage of TDA II is a step in the right direction for Illinois,” said State Treasurer Dan Rutherford in the same prepared material. “TDA II will enable up to two percent of the investment portfolio to be used to target the technology business and ensure that at least twice as many dollars the state commits will be invested directly in Illinois companies. That’s a huge step toward what could be a significant improvement in our economy.”

The investment money supports early-stage and entrepreneurial businesses, helping Illinois to make a name for itself in the national technology industry. State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) was the initial sponsor of the bill, with State Rep. Daniel Biss (D-Skokie) a key player in the House.

“The highest priority in Illinois is putting people back to work,” said Kotowski. “Senate Bill 107 will help create a healthy business climate that ensures economic vitality and spurs job growth. Encouraging the development of innovative Illinois-based businesses will truly benefit our state. These businesses create high-paying, long-lasting jobs. I am sponsoring this legislation because these businesses can lead to a stronger Illinois economy, improving the quality of life for everyone.”

Colleen Connolly, StreetWise Editorial Intern

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