The State of South Carolina should be a model employer for people with and without disabilities. 

Barrier 1: People with disabilities are two times more likely to experience job loss and unemployment than those without disabilities. 

Unlocking the Barrier: The Employment First Initiative Act (bill H.3244) must pass this legislative year! Employment First means that employment in the community should be the first and preferred option for people with disabilities. It means real jobs for real wages. Learn more about employment first here. Employment First efforts are needed to develop strong public policy at the state level to:

  • This Act would develop the Employment First Oversight Commission. An oversight commission is a group of people who have authority to study and make recommendations about a topic.
  • This would make our state to be a leader in inclusive hiring practices. This means hiring people based on their skills and abilities, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.
  • Encourage businesses to include people with disabilities in the workforce by providing incentives. An incentive is a payment, tax break, lowered fee, or no-cost option to encourage people and businesses to do something.

Barrier 2: Nearly 1,000 South Carolinians with disabilities are limited to “work activity centers” or sheltered workshop settings. These are places where people with disabilities are segregated from non-disabled people to work for subminimum wages. They may make less than one dollar per hour. From these settings, less than 5% transition into community-based employment. These are jobs where people with disabilities can work alongside non-disabled peers.

  • People with disabilities deserve access to the same jobs and wages as non-disabled people. 
  • People with disabilities have the right to accommodations that enable them to hold jobs that suit their strengths and interests. 

Unlocking the Barrier: Subminimum wage must be phased out

  • The state must provide a plan to offer employment support services for individuals with disabilities as they transition to competitive, community-based employment.
  • SC lawmakers must pass bill S.533 to end this outdated and harmful practice.

Supporting Data: Studies show employers who hire people with disabilities have less turnover. People with disabilities hold jobs for longer and perform equal to their peers. Learn more about these benefits and more for employers here.


Transportation is the key to independence and community participation. People with disabilities are twice as likely not to have dependable transportation. This makes it difficult to:

  • Find and keep their jobs
  • Take care of their health needs
  • Build friendships, relationships, and family connections
  • Take part in community activities and local economy

Infrastructure is the physical needs that support a community of people. Transportation infrastructure refers to things like roads and bridges, but it also includes sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks, lights, signs, and more. Public transportation and quality infrastructure benefit young professionals, families, seniors and bring in new businesses! 

Barrier 1:  Crumbling sidewalks, missing curb cuts and crosswalks, shelter areas, and hard-to-read or unreadable signs limit transportation.

Unlocking the Barrier: Investments in infrastructure must include the legally required ADA standards to create equal access for disabled people.

Barrier 2: There are 27 Public Transit Authorities across South Carolina, but these authorities do not provide the services our rural communities need.

Unlocking the Barrier: South Carolina lawmakers need to create a statewide public transportation plan.

  • The plan should help local governments tap into the many resources available to fund Public Transit Authorities and mobility management programs. 
  • Mobility management creates and manages options for people to get from place to place. Mobility management programs improve the abilities of transportation services by increasing reach and affordability. Learn more here.

Supporting Data: Studies have shown that states that use their public transportation plans see benefits that include increased job creation, increased economic growth, and decreased out-of-pocket spending for riders. For every $1 invested in public transportation, $4 is returned to the local economy. Learn more about the benefits here.

Several states across the country have created statewide public transportation plans since the 1990s. It’s time for South Carolina to use lessons learned from other states to create a plan that benefits our citizens.


Housing is key to independence. People with disabilities deserve access to affordable, accessible housing, in accessible neighborhoods, with neighbors who are non-disabled.  Accessible means something is usable by everyone.

Barrier 1: People with disabilities in South Carolina experience a poverty rate of just over 25%. Often affordable housing does not have the accessibility features that people with disabilities require. This means that housing for people with disabilities can be difficult to find.

Unlocking the Barrier: South Carolina lawmakers should require local governments to develop affordable housing solutions that include people with disabilities.

Barrier 2: Housing and neighborhoods are not always built with accessibility in mind, excluding people with disabilities from the community.

Unlocking the Barrier: Universal Design removes barriers and considers the needs of different learning, mobility, and sensory disabilities to make a space accessible and easy to use for as many people as possible. 

  • Lawmakers should create incentives for builders and developers to use Universal Design in our neighborhoods. 
  • Universal design can offer more independence and lets people age in place.

 Link to information on Universal Design

Barrier 3: The U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead Decision (1999) mandated all states to create an Olmstead Plan. The plan should show how the state is going to provide services to individuals with disabilities living in the community so they are not forced into institutions.  22 years later, South Carolina still has not developed an Olmstead Plan!

Unlocking the Barrier: Giving people with disabilities access to the community alongside their non-disabled peers must be a priority! 

  • South Carolina needs to create an Olmstead Plan, as required by law. The plan must show how the state will provide services to individuals with disabilities living in the community as the preferred option, per the law. 
  • South Carolina lawmakers need to prioritize funding for home and community-based services (HCBS) and programs like Money Follows the Person, to prevent individuals from getting stuck in costly institutional placements.
  • HCBS is person-centered care delivered in the home and community, like assistance with everyday activities. HCBS are designed to enable people to stay in their homes instead of being forced to move into care facilities.
  • Money Follows the Person is a program that helps Medicaid-eligible people who live in facilities move into their own homes and communities with support.

Supporting Data: Per The Kaiser Commision on Medicaid and the Uninsured, “In 2015, the median annual cost for nursing facility care was $91,250. Generally, HCBS are less expensive than institution-based LTSS, but may still represent a major financial burden for individuals and their families. In 2015, the median cost for one year of home health aide services (at $20/hour, 44 hours/week) was almost $45,800.”
Per the ‘Medicaid Long Term Services and Supports Annual Expenditures Report,’ released January 7, 2021, “In 2018, SC ranked 33rd in percentage of spending on home and community based Medicaid services as compared to institutional settings.”

ADA Coordinators & Community Access

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law nearly 32 years ago. Yet, South Carolina still has a long way to go to follow the law. The state has faced ADA lawsuits and Department of Justice complaints. South Carolina needs to take action to protect the rights of children and adults with disabilities.

It is a federal requirement that all state agencies with 50 or more employees must have Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinators to enforce the ADA and ensure that people with disabilities can access services equally. Without these ADA coordinators, people with disabilities are separated and can’t participate equally in society.

Barrier 1: The majority of state agencies in South Carolina are breaking the law by not having ADA Coordinators. 

Unlocking the Barrier: Lawmakers must provide oversight of the state’s ADA procedures and processes. Lawmakers must be responsible for making sure all state agencies are following the law by having ADA coordinators.

Barrier 2: When agencies do have ADA coordinators, these coordinators are often not trained or knowledgeable on accessibility or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Coordinators must be properly trained and qualified to effectively advocate for the disability community.

Unlocking the Barrier: Lawmakers need to hold agencies accountable for having ADA coordinators who are qualified.

Supporting Data: South Carolina has had ADA litigation and Department of Justice complaints that could have been resolved or prevented. This litigation is an expense to South Carolina taxpayers that is grossly unnecessary and preventable.

Countdown To Advocacy Day: April 13, 2022

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