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HARTFORD, Conn. – Aetna Group Insurance and the Aetna Foundation have awarded grants totaling $100,000 to the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.), an advocacy group working to promote full opportunities for America’s 54 million men, women and children with all types of disabilities. The grants will support two major N.O.D. initiatives: the Start on Success (S.O.S.) internship program and the National Partnership Program, which initiates alliances with associations whose primary focus is not disability but who share N.O.D.’s interest in expanding opportunities for people with disabilities. According to S.O.S. Program Director Charles Dey, access to employment is the most difficult barrier facing young Americans with disabilities. Only 32% of people with disabilities are now working full- or part-time, according to an N.O.D./Harris poll. The paid internship program trains hundreds of high school students with physical, mental or sensory disabilities through real world work experience. “The focus is on so-called `gap kids,’ high school students who, if not effectively transitioned to the workplace or continuing education by the time they graduate, are prime candidates for isolation, welfare or incarceration,” said Dey. Start on Success has expanded to 18 sites in Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

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