Even though many federal policies favor community-based employment for people with disabilities, a new report finds that most government funds go to sheltered workshops instead.
The report released Tuesday from the National Disability Rights Network looks at how money for disability employment flowing from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Rehabilitation Services Administration is utilized in the states.
Though both agencies have stated policies supporting community-based employment, the advocacy group analysis found that the system is “complex and confusing” with most money going to sheltered workshops.
In Ohio alone, the report indicates that an estimated $5 million in local and federal funds were spent in 2011 for community-based employment. During the same period, some $175 million was spent on segregated work environments.
“There is a total disconnect between what governments say they want to accomplish in terms of employment for people with disabilities and how they are actually spending taxpayer dollars,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, an umbrella group for the protection and advocacy organizations in each state.
Currently, more than 400,000 Americans with disabilities are employed in sheltered workshops, according to the advocacy group. Such segregated work environments typically pay workers less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The report is the second in little more than a year from the National Disability Rights Network calling for an end to sheltered workshops. The group favors community-based employment for people with disabilities with supports, as needed.
Proponents of sheltered workshops, however, argue that they provide a much-needed system for people with severe disabilities to earn a wage and socialize with their peers.