Nancy Geno brings a unique perspective to workshops. A former U.S. Marine with 20 years of healthcare experience, she retired three years ago and began serving as Community Relations Director at Valley Industries in Hazelwood. She also has a 65-year-old brother with developmental disabilities.
Geno says the advantages of workshop must be seen to be understood. “The sense of pride, the self-esteem and friendships are so important,” she said. “At the end of the day, they often express a sense of completion and independence that’s awesome. They must have that chance and the right to choose.”
Unfortunately, many want to limit those choices and assume everyone with a developmental disability can find employment in the private sector. States where that has been tried have experienced over 60 percent unemployment among people with disabilities. Other issues include exploitation, bullying and even sexual violence against this vulnerable group.
“If I could stand in front of Congress, I would lay it out for them. Many of the people like my brother cannot work in the private sector. I’ve seen what happens when they are forced to try.”
She urges all workshops and managers to become involved. The many forces pushing for an end to workshops is gaining strength. “This is a moving train,” she stated. “It’s not going to stop here. We must keep working and working hard.”
Nancy and her husband recently did their part by representing Valley Industries at Missouri Day on the Hill, July 14. Earlier that week, they also participated in the ACCSES Annual Meeting.
“It was a week of emotion,” she recalled. “One minute you were crying. The next minute you were angry. Everything just kept changing.”
She was impressed with the ACCSES breakout sessions but also stressed her experience with her brother. “I think growing up, having a brother younger than myself being developmentally disabled, has taught me a lot. And being in this (workshop) building with all of these people is humbling.”