LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law Friday that will make it easier for people with disabilities to get jobs.
The state will invest about $4 million into vocational rehabilitation services, and invest about $15 million from federal funds.
"Disability is a state of mind," said Mike McGowan.
He's not confined by his wheelchair.
"I can't walk but I ride horses, I train horses, I teach kids how to ride," he said.
The Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation bought McGowan an electric wheelchair so he can get in and out of horse arenas and doesn't have to write off his career as a trainer.
"When I got all the help I got, it actually came in one year and I felt guilty about it because who didn't get it? Because I got so much, who didn't get something that year? So it makes you feel good that this money will help so many more people," McGowan said.
The new law is expected to help 23,000 jobseekers with disabilities within the next couple of years.
"The appreciation, the dignity that comes from work – at least for people who want to. And many people want to have that opportunity to work. This breaks down some of those barriers," said Gov. Scott Walker.
"I certainly think that this is a notion that everyone has abilities and we need to make sure that we can find that right fit and that right skill set for every individual who wants to work," said Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D -32nd District. Shilling authored the bill.
According to the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations, 70 percent of people without disabilities are in the workforce, compared to only 37 percent of people with disabilities.
McGowan is part of that 37 percent. He wasn't willing to let being paralyzed halt his career.
"I heard it from friends, I heard it from doctors, and we sort of proved them wrong," McGowan said.
He's hoping this new law will allow others with disabilities to do the same.
The legislation is supposed to help more than 4,000 people waiting for services. The governor's office said the law will reduce the waiting period from about four months to about four weeks.
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