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Lawmakers discuss ways to support the disabled

CARSON CITY — Lawmakers heard clashing arguments Monday at a hearing on a $17 million appropriation for worker training institutions for the disabled.

Opponents, which included several disabled people, said the state should do more to integrate the disabled into society and said such institutions only keep them apart.

Included in Assembly Bill 455 is $12 million for Opportunity Village in Las Vegas for vocational training, employment and social recreation for people with intellectual disabilities.

The money is already in Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget, and he also mentioned it in his state of the state address.

Diana Rovetti, who has a disabled child, said she doesn’t feel the governor is informed.

“The growing trend in the United States of America is not to segregate people,” Rovetti said, adding that she’s working to integrate disabled people into high schools with regular classes.

“We don’t want them funneled into a box,” Rovetti said.

Mary Bryant, chairwoman of the governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee that the council opposes the bill because it sends a “message of segregation for persons with disabilities.” Bryant said sheltered workshops are giving way to inclusive community employment and activities for the disabled.

LaVonne Brooks, chief executive officer of High Sierra Industries, said the state can fund both types of programs, but programs that opponents advocate are not yet developed, while her sector is already providing job training.

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