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Justice Department Urges Shift Away From Sheltered Workshops


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In a first-of-its-kind settlement, the U.S. Department of Justice says a state has committed to overhaul its system of sheltered workshops and day programs for people with developmental disabilities.

The agreement announced Tuesday with the state of Rhode Island comes after a Justice Department investigation found systematic violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the state’s approach to transition and employment for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Students in the state were often funneled from school to sheltered workshops, the Justice Department found. Once there, they typically lingered for years in segregated environments earning an average of $2.21 per hour.

Under the settlement, Rhode Island is pledging to offer supported employment placements that pay at least minimum wage in addition to community-based educational, leisure or volunteer activities for individuals with disabilities when they are not working. What’s more, the state will offer transition services for students age 14 and older that include internships, visits to job sites and mentoring.

The state plans to redirect “significant” funds over a 10-year period that were used for segregated settings in order to provide the integrated offerings.

Federal officials said the deal with Rhode Island is the first-ever statewide settlement to address the rights of people with disabilities to receive community-based, state-funded employment and daytime services.

With an estimated 450,000 people with developmental disabilities nationwide currently spending their days in sheltered workshops and other segregated programs, officials said the agreement sets the bar for every other state in the country.

“Today’s agreement will make Rhode Island a national leader in the movement to bring people with disabilities out of segregated work settings and into typical jobs in the community at competitive pay,” said Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. “We believe that Rhode Island will be a model for the nation with respect to integrated employment for people with disabilities.”

Despite the push toward community-based offerings, Samuels said individuals with developmental disabilities will be able to remain in segregated environments if they choose.

“To ensure informed choice, individuals with I/DD may also remain in sheltered programs if they request a variance after they have received a vocational assessment, a trial work experience, outreach information and benefits counseling,” Samuels said.

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Comments (41 Responses)

  1. Patricia Fogarty says:

    Rhode Island, good luck to you. It is such a shame that we are FORCING people with disabilities to enter a job market that is cut throat, none existent in many places, provides no support (supported work is not enough for most people currently in a sheltered work shop) and allows them to be taken advantage of. People responsible for preparing budgets and politicians who are supporting the abolition of work shops HAVE NOT CLUE what people with disabilities REALLY WANT, they only know that it costs more money to support someone with a disability and they DO NOT WANT TO PAY!! Shame on all of you, why not come down and actually speak to some of the people with disabilities who work in work shops to see what they think!!!

  2. Allen says:

    This is fantastic! I have worked in the I/DD field for eleven years and have often visited the sheltered workshops as part of my duties. Some put forth a sincere effort to think outside the box and market the skills and desires of the people we serve so that an optimum quality of life is more attainable. But, in our community, there has been a clear void of understanding as to the massive potential offered by people with a Developmental Disability. So, this is indeed a beginning and I hope it will motivate other states to follow the example.

  3. Whitney says:

    Rhode Island is not only state that does that. Texas does it as well. I always said there needs to be some basic form of national standards for shelter work system with a tier system depending on functionality.

  4. Marianne says:

    Wonderful news! This decision is important and I hope to see other states follow. Individuals in workshops earn below minimum wage while generating revenue that pays staff salaries. My only concern is funding and support for meaningful activities in the community for those that cannot find employment or find full time employment.

  5. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Go Rhode Island. It will be difficult, but you can be the leaders. When my son was in a sheltered workshop, my son not only lost most of the skills he learned in his 21 years in school but they insisted he be put on medication–which he never had been on before. It was the start of a downward spiral we will never recover from. The new “day care with a theme” programs are also bad, but at least there is not the large group and noise. I sincerely wish for some good models which take the lead from what works in the schools. Workshops suck!

  6. denell says:

    This is a double edged sword. There are people who will benefit. There are more who will not. They will be the vulnerable who dont really understand. Who will have benefits cut because they missed a meetjng or appeared to be noncompliant. Then we will deal with them behind bars or pan handljng jn the streets

  7. Victoria Bryant says:

    I have been working in this field for over 25 years. I was a teacher in the Special Education Department and now I’m an Executive Director at an Arc. It is crucial that all persons have “choices”. We can not determine that any one thing is good for everybody. We who have no disability do not all do the same thing. We all don’t go to a University. Some have chosen Vocational Schools and some have chosen a (2) year program and some have chosen no school at all. So, to say that a sheltered program is the worst thng ever is absolutely irresponsible. We have individuals who have tried 3-4-5 times to maintain employment in the community. We have found jobs an provided extensive supports to come back in 3-6 months searching all over again. Hey, that’s fine is someone will fund all the supports needed and all the time expended for those services but “hell” no-LRS (Louisiana Rehabilitaton Services) provides no funding until after so many stages are completed. How can an agency survive? So, if these movements are pushed then please fund them 100%. Do not expect the ageny to take on the burden of seeking additional funding to support what you all dictate to be the new “WAY”. Also, we provide more hours, pay more money and we pursue more opportunities for those we support. We help develop the skills needed to understand that one must speak for him/herself. We have had individuals that have attended our program with extensive behavioral challenges and we’ve worked hard to create a setting of production that will distract the typical redundant routine that would produce behaviors………..We have contracts with many businesses to develop partnerships that would allow our participants to engage in work opportunities and/or activities with those without a disability. Integration is a necessity but not through closing a vital entity to mandate another.

  8. Marilyn Dillon says:

    This is just my opinion, having been a part of the system when it was considered MR/DD. I worked for 17 years as the program nurse for both the school and the sheltered workshop. During those 17 years we had a community employment department that I would have bet my savings that was the best ever. The coaches were not only good at their job but they were involved in every aspect of what it took to make the employment process successful for the clients. The Superintendent who came after I started eventually tore the community employment department apart step by step and then the recession did the rest. With that being said, there were some down sides to community employment that need to be addressed. If our clients became bored with their jobs or lacked the initiative to get up and report on time every day that they were scheduled to work, they lost their jobs. Remember now the coaches must speak to these individuals without bullying, with integrity and logical reasoning. That does not mean that the client would reciprocate and get up to go to their job. This is how the community expects us to treat people and is only the right thing to do. So if our clients lose their job for any reason, (remember some are also medically fragile and can’t always maintain a rigourous schedule of work) what is there for them to attend? Many sheltered work shops provided the necessary training in skills needed to have community employment while they waited to find jobs that would meet their needs. I don’t understand why we always feel the need to throw out the baby with the bath water! Why, if there are sheltered workshops not meeting the curriculum necessary to make productive community workers, can’t they be placed under improvement plans and bring them up to par. Does anyone remember when we closed all the residential facilities that were poorly run as well as the ones who truly made a home for the clients who had no where else to go? We tried to provide group homes which have and have not been great all the time but how many homeless did we create? Especially with the dual diagnosis. Come on. I am retired now and I know we have a lot of smart people out there. Can’t we come up with solutions that are common sense, reasonable and functional for all of our clients based on their real needs. And by the way, throw out that model for choice, and bring in a more realistic model that meets the needs of our clients who need a mixture of settings. Someone has got to move to the middle and make decisions that are realistic and are workable solutions for our clients. Who suffers? Not the community that throws their money at the problem with taxes and donations, it is the individual clients and their families who are out there with little support personally to help make their children feel accepted and become functional citizens of our communities. They are all our family who need all of us to become involved in the process.

  9. Barb says:

    I hope that Rhode Island has a whole lot of money to spend for long term one-to-one job coaching and services.

  10. Whitney says:

    An x amount years does not make the Shelter Workforce immune to reform. If it is so valuable then fix it. The problem is the states are using for people who can work outside of Shelter Workforce environment who happened to be disabled! High Functioning know enough to know that they be railroaded by a system that would under utilize there skill set. Just because you are diagnosed with a disability does not mean you are automatically segregated to a Shelter Work Program. You are saying one population is being hurt by this ruling and what about the other population. Developmental disabilities does not mean that person is unaware that they are being treated like third class citizens.

    FIX the Shelter Work Programs that make functionality is based upon tier system.

    DO NOT ignore people who are high functioning because the Shelter Work Program is what working against them.

    Make Job coaches more aware of all different functioning levels with people with disabilities. Do not send people with high level computers skills to make Christmas Ornaments or fold Pizza boxes.

    High level computer skills often mean hackers. No one will consider hiring a tech at $2.25 if they want protect security of financial papers or sensitive documents. It is part of how High Functioning people lash out to places like the Shelter Work Programs.

    Make Shelter Work programs work better by SERVING intended group. Drop the one fits all approach with Disabilities.

  11. bDvR- FAP- Friends of Autistic People says:

    FAP- Friends of Autistic People – it is time ! wonderful ! this of course, entails more money to train staff of care providers to be trained to find appropriate jobs and to be trained as job coaches. ….. is the Government ready to put funds behind this U.S. Department of Justice ruling? IDEA is not funded fully yet after over 30 years of having been ordered by Federal mandate.

  12. Mike says:

    There will be many requests for variances.

  13. Kathleen Roberts says:

    I am amazed that the Dept. of Justice seems to know what is best for our family members with disabilities.
    Sheltered workshops are a safe place for many people who are not capable of working out in the community and really enjoy being with their peers. One size does not fit all. Workshops are no more segregated than a college campus of college students or a singles community that is for singles only or a retirement community that has only retirees. Please want someone fight for choice and quit forcing integration of people into settings that they do not want to be in? We want to keep our workshops, our institutions and our community homes as options.

  14. Rosella A Alm says:

    “To ensure informed choice, individuals with I/DD may also remain in sheltered programs if they request a variance after they have received a vocational assessment, a trial work experience, outreach information and benefits counseling,” says Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.

    A person with disabilities who is content with his/her job or day program has to ring all the chimes that Ms. Samuels has established as criteria for staying put before they are let alone in their preferred position. This is definitely not according to the spirit of the ADA.

    If a person voluntarily wants to explore new work experiences then by all means facilitate that, but it should not be mandatory just to stay where a person is content.

  15. Dadvocate says:

    This DOJ Civil Rights Division is completely out of control. To enforce some Orwellian notion of “informed choice”, the DOJ are mandating a high pressure sales pitch, a potentially upsetting (or worse) change in individual circumstances, and the risk of a potential failure at some ill defined trial work experience in order for developmentally disabled people to stay put, even if they (or their legal guardians) are happy and don’t want that experience? Talk about bullying vulnerable individuals! Freedom means allowing people to make choices free from coercion, even if they are choices you prefer they not make. How about letting them remain if they want to. Period. Make the alternative to sheltered workshops appealing first, and the appropriate folks will come.

  16. Angela Klonoski says:

    How do you complain about a school in CT who is doing the same thing?

  17. carolyn siewicki says:

    This is a step in the right direction. My daughter, Jennifer, (The Joys of Jennifer) is 29 years old and in my experience, looking for work in Michigan is very, very tough. Especially for a person with disabilities. Agencies paid with medicaid dollars, that we have dealt with won’t even give Jennifer the time of day ( no return phone calls or emails) because in their opinion it would be too much work to help her obtain competitive employment. They operate sheltered-workshops which is more profitable and easier for them. Even her agency from The Department of Mental Health falls short. We have been waiting since January for “signatures” for her budget to be finalized so she can go through an agency to help her look for work. Very disrespectful to Jennifer.

  18. judie says:

    3 Cheers for RI, it is way over due. Now how about the rest of the country.

  19. Cathy says:

    And, IF someone can make them accountable this might work. There are always loop holes and unless you sit on providers, they change nothing. Everyone thinks it is about money. Where will the money come from? Well, turnover with employees would probably greatly decrease if the people are taken into the community but, of course, staff couldn’t sit around chatting about their weekends while people like my son stare into space. Those workshops cost money to run so that expense would be cut. In KS, compliance officers are few yet staff for the contracted services is more than plenty and we just added yet another layer so on top of a case manager there is now a Managed Care person that will be coming to try to eliminate services of the funded to fund the underserved.

    This will probably be just like everything else. “Well, I’m sorry but your son doesn’t qualify for this program.” And, the most he ever made at the workshop for a month was $20.00 with him there sitting at a work table 5 hours a day so, $2.11 would have been a real boom for him. I think I computed .11 cents an hour on average since each month his production went down. After 6 months, he stopped using words, was fearful and stopped dancing which he loved. Yes, let’s get them into the community so they can be observed and have a life above a kenneled pup! Avoid Kansas like the plague as they are still excited that some of the people are no longer in an institution and it will take much more than that for me to be excited.

    It can be done. It is worthwhile.

  20. marie camp says:

    My son is a non verbal autistic 33 yr. old man. He has been in a sheltered workshop for 10 yrs. He loves his job, the people who work with him and has a routine. Take that away he has nothing, no regular job is going to take the time to teach him new skills, listen or be patient when he uses a communication device. The Justice Dept. needs to take a hard look at all aspects.

  21. Syd Healy says:

    The attacks on sheltered workshops are, in most instances, red herrings. Most people with intellectual disabilities who can work competitively without a level of support considered unaffordable by Medicaid, are working. Many of the others are working in sheltered workshops, earning fair pay (regardless of the amount which does not necessarily correlate to fairness–see corporate CEO salaries) for the work they produce.
    The latter group will be forced out of a work environment they enjoy and shuffled into non-work activities–watching TV, mall walking or crafts, for example–judged interesting, fun, satisfying or fulfilling by the US Department of Justice Department, the state or CMS administrators.
    The movement to shutter sheltered workshops is a money grab, pure and simple, by advocates (e.g., APSE) for employment of people with disabilities. These groups do not represent people with intellectual disabilities, they represent provider organizations that need funds. Their noise has garnered government support from officials (e.g., Sen. Tom Harkin and Attorney General Eric Holder) who are in the dark. And the closings just don’t work for many people who are served by sheltered workshops.
    Maybe you’ve noticed that the shutter-the-workshop folks rarely, if ever, provide statistics supporting the placement work they do. Placing a blind person with a college degree is not that difficult; nor is finding sufficient employment for a deaf upholsterer. But try to find a 20-hour job at $8/hour for a young man or woman with an IQ of 61 who doesn’t read and is unable move from job step to job step without prompts–and is subject to seizures. Well, the Justice Department’s Nancy Gurney (Google her, if the name’s unfamiliar) no doubt would tell the young man or young woman that he or she should not be working, regardless of how that person might feel about the situation. Nancy Gurney, after all, knows what is fulfilling and satisfying for others. That’s why her consulting fees are so outrageous, even by federal standards.
    Although the sheltered-workshop conversion movement is unable to show positive results for people with more severe intellectual disabilities, the curtain is coming down on people receiving that service. When it comes to sheltered employees moving to competitive jobs, you can count on those with the more severe disabilities being left behind and essentially omitted from participating further in their communities.

  22. Paul Prevosnik says:

    As the parent of a disabled son age 34 I have a different opinion than most not for profit executives, administrators and educators concerning community employment. Community employment does not satisfy the true needs of all people with disabilities.
    My son worked at McDonalds and Starbucks after graduating from High School at age 22. Nice enough co-workers who would say hello and good bye every day. Not much more than what you would say to a pet. As a matter of fact the one person not invited to the annual Christmas party was my son. Certainly not a fulfilling job environment if you ask me.
    Compare this to the workshop where 50+ workers know each other on a first name basis and where they discuss politics, sports, movies and celebrate holidays, birthdays every day. They also are productive workers who are proud of their accomplishments.
    Board members need to find out what this part of our population are really about instead of working on your spread sheets and charts. Do any of you know the people in the workshops personally?
    I do and it is truly rewarding.

  23. Whitney says:

    All right create a tier system for individuals with disabilities. The problem I see here is that Developmental Disabilities and Intellectual Disabilities are two different groups that are being treated the same. Developmental Disabilities may or may not have high IQ”S and be self aware. The problem with most Shelter Work Places it is not the program itself but the Job Coaches on some level.

    1. Shelter Work Places expressed need for people with Disabilities at certain functioning level. (The Employer ask for low functioning individuals for the worksite and the Job Coach sends them a High Functioning worker. The Employer is not going hire the client because he or she does not meet the criteria for the Employee) For many with High Functioning Autism we find this to be a fact a life. It is the reason why we consider Shelter WorkPlaces to be extremely harmful.

    2. By creating a tier system that the Client is HIGH Functioning means that you find a place for people with needs for HIGH Functioning with Disabilities. (Yes Tech firms are hiring people with Autism because they are really good at finding program errors in computer programming. This is where having Autism is a boon these Tech Firms are working as Shelter WorkPlace in metaphorical sense for high functioning people. NOW people are saying this discrimatory because it is for High Functioning Autism but if others who are High functioning can do the job I have no problem, Conversely we feel that funding for this type of work is not in place and the Traditional Shelter Workplace are taking government funding that can benefit us.)

    3. It is public awareness and lack of advocacy on stating all disabilities are not low functioning.

    In my opinion that most Job Coaches want the government funding to find than actually provide a service. The problem stems that they want to treat people with ID and DD the same. Which lends to an Orwellian practice of putting people who are High Functioning should not go to low functioning for people with disabilities work site.

  24. Michael says:

    I am an administrator of a DT program in which our program went from 21 employment opportunities when i arrived to 145 a little over 6 years later. This is painstaking work. Its not just getting the jobs its sustaining the jobs. I am happy to see that most people that have posted a reply have an understanding that pie in the sky, one-answer advocacy is not a real answer. This decision is like most decisions now in goverment, highly skewed to one position, and will likely result in the previous “great social revolution” to “save the M.I. population from the institutions”. This advocacy of “community-based, integrated treatment” has resulted in an untold number of people homeless and/or wandering the streets with no meaningful treatment, but hey, we saved a lot of money and we integrated everyone. Sound familiar? Rather than fix the system, it was blown up, and I challenge anyone who could say that this decision did more good than bad.

    The problem is, we did this to ourselves. DT programs were never designed to keep people with disabilities endlessly, they were designed to be job training, readiness, and placement programs. Now, this was also shortsighted to think that everyone could be trained to work independently, but let’s face it, the record as a whole could be a lot better. What occurred was that people with I/DD were kept safe in these programs, and were hopefully receiving quality programs and services (and that’s a reach at a lot of places), and possibly some work oppportunity, and this became enough to satisfy state surveyors. Over time, this became increasingly the expectation to where new generations of providers and surveyors have come in not really knowing differently. The result, a service industry with low employment outcomes, surveyors with low employment expectations, and a funding system that is probably the lowest funded source of any deserving service.

    The Employment First movement that is sweeping the country, and coupled with the DOJ actions and threats, is going to change everything about this industry, and mostly because it “sounds right” (integration, community, right to work) and its cheaper. This of course does not account for choice or individual assessment, but it wins with the rhetorically guided “sheep”ple who like their news interpreted for them, and want to be on the “sounds good to me” side of the argument. The early advocates of EF pronounce that working directly for a community employer, in a full time capacity, at or above minimum wage, with a full compliment of benefits, without undue supports, is the first and only option for disabilities regardless of level of disability. Self-employment is the only other acceptable choice. Fortunately, some of this extreme rhetoric has subsided, but action like the DOJ has done fuels the fire once again on this “sounds good to me” philosophy. What our industry has to do is to adopt a working directly for a community employer, in a full time capacity, at or above minimum wage, with a full compliment of benefits, is the first and preferred option, but that there are then a hierarchy of other service levels, depending on choice and ability. Until we police ourselves, the DOJ and others will do it.

    The last thing i wanted to say is there is all this anger about people with disabilities being segregated when they work in a sheltered workshop, so in an employment situation that is designed with “reasonable accomodations” that allow them to work. Why is is that non-disabled people are allowed to congregate, and essentially every other group or identity is allowed to congregate, to choose their friends, co-workers, and neighbors, but when people with I/DD and their families choose to congregate, that choice should be taken away? This is so severe that in our state, and I assume others, a provider cannot develop 2 community homes within so many hundreds of yards from each other. Can their “integrated community planning” only tolerate 4 people with I/DD per city block? Things that make you go, hmmmm.

  25. Greg Ferrall says:

    Just yestereday, I replied to a writer from the New York Times who reported on this decision. It is as follows:

    Mr. Barry,

    Please ask yourself how many adults with disabilities are currently employed in office, printing, and distribution functions of the New York Times. Then ask yourself why this may be the case, that you can identify very few within your work force.

    In their ideal world, proponents of community-based opportunities for all, and minimum wage, would want us all to believe that all people, regardless of ability, are capable of pulling their own weight and entitled to the same work and wages of those with greater physical and mental ability.

    I live in the real world, where I appreciate and love people of all persuasions and abilities but also appreciate that those who work harder and smarter might be entitled to a bigger piece of the pie. This is the nature of a truly free society.

    I also prefer a competitive economy where effort and ability matter, and where those who are the bigger producers are compassionate enough to provide for specialized services, such as segregated employment programs, for persons with identified disabilities. Healthy functioning adults generally support such efforts and pass tax levies to provide such services. Call it “biblical”, call it “humanitarian” or simply call it “doing the right thing” . . . charity is alive and well.

    The purpose of segregated employment training programs was never to demean or to further limit adults who are already limited. It was to recognize that special training and compassion are necessary ingredients in a very difficult and frustrating habilitation process that has shown good outcomes when proper methods are taught and followed. It is sometimes the failure to properly teach and follow such methods that results in the perpetuation of segregated work environments. But I would argue that the broader lack of integrated employment opportunities is more often due to the reality that the work world is a healthy, competitive environment that rewards higher achievers and “makes room” for those with disabilities as that environment allows. It is a natural process, not an organized conspiracy to discredit or demean persons with disabilities.

    Businesses (and their owners) like the New York Times have the right to make decisions about who they hire and know that productivity is necessary to a strong business model, although government entitlement programs and some civil rights legislation often presumes to “know better”.

    There are no other such benevolent training programs around the world that compare to the models that we have created and have practiced over the past 50 to 60 years in this country. Some are segregated while others are not. We all prefer the latter. The best chance for persons with disabilities to become contributing members in their communities is right here in the good old USA in day training programs that are now being demonized by those with the unrealistic expectations that work and wage guarantees can make people equal.

    Professionals who have worked this field for many years, not the idealists who want to make the world equal, understand and know better as we celebrate the successes of our programs, and achievements made by our clients, every day.

    Greg Ferrall
    Director of Adult Services
    Auglaize Industries, Inc.
    Auglaize County, Ohio

  26. Carrie says:

    Patricia Fogarty you are correct! You obviously work with people with disabilities and are not someone who knows nothing of what is best for them. CHOICE. Most people I work with CHOOSE to work in a Work Skills Development Center. Most have either been treated so bad in outside work areas or do not have the ability to maintain the work needed to be paid minimum wage. In our state, we have a lot of unemployed non-disabled people who cannot find jobs – and employers can basically chose the cream of the crop. As for what is made, our Clients make wages based on their skill level — some even make over minimum wage! If a Work Shop is taking advantage of Clients and not paying them based on time studies, then they should be shut down….but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Closure of Skill Based Centers just leaves them to stay at a home….and be shoved out on outings to make numbers correct for billing. We teach the value of work and the value of receiving compensation for that work. Our Clients are proud to work and receive a pay check just like you and I do.

  27. Dadvocate says:

    Thank you, Michael, for your service to people with disabilities and your very wise comments. Whether in employment, housing, or programming, the highly conflicted construct of State DD agencies, federally funded advocacy groups, their Federal allies at HHS, and the DOJs civil rights division are rushing at breakneck speed to blow up the current support infrastructure for people with ID/DD in favor of a cheaper “one size all” and “feel good” independent living model (with resources and opportunity yet to be developed). They (falsely) claim, over and over, that Olmstead “mandates” the dismantling, when, to any rational reader, the only mandate in the ruling is that decisions on supports should be in the hands of individuals, their families, and guardians, rather than with the government or closely allied provider organizations.

    Frankly, I don’t think these allies can enact this dismantling via legislation. It would likely be unconstitutional to deprive disabled people of their rights (ex. to congregate in employment or reject independent living settings) so they stealthily codify these edicts via rules and guidance, all with the threat of an unlimited resourced DOJ action as the 800lb gorilla in the room.

    Personally, I think a lot of the ID/DD infrastructure in place now stinks, is outmoded and underfunded, and inappropriate for many (especially for people who have high behavioral support needs) and needs to change. But that should happen by incenting the development of more and better providers and allowing folks to choose what fits them best, even if it appears “congregate” or “segregated” to some. Independent living should be the top option and market based employment opportunities far more developed and available than they are now. But the methods to promote these goals should be respectful of choice and free of coercion.

    Unfortunately, they are not. Instead of developing more options and growing infrastructure, these folks are hell-bent on immediately eliminating (or starving of funding) any structure or provider option that doesn’t fit their ideologically rigid view of how life should be for people with ID/DD. That is the really appalling part. The amount of collateral damage to disabled individuals and their families that these architects are willing to accept in their quest for utopia is staggering.

    The recent HCBS waiver rules and guidelines issued by CMS are a perfect example. It’s a real “we know what’s best” attitude, outlawing funding of any (even modestly) congregate settings in housing employment or programs, including a codified rebuttal presumption that, “if we didn’t say you can do it, presume it’s not allowed.”

    That’s anti-innovation and anti-choice policy in action. Those people highly impacted by ID/DD, some with autism, and their families are being kicked to the curb by these highly skilled, economically incented and allied forces. That’s pretty awful. I guess that’s what happens when people with ID?DD rely on advocates who rely on the government for their funding. You get a lot of mutual reinforcement and no one at the table who can or wants to deviate from the party line.

  28. K Heumann says:

    I am a Employment Training Specialist/Job Coach…. This is the hardest job I ever had. I live in a very smalll town that does not have the opportunities of the big cities. Our minimum wage is too high and we live in an area that the gas prices are the highest in Michigan. With that being said… I was able to get a guy a job. He eventually quit, the first one of mine to ever quit. When I contacted the manager (who is a friend of mine and the 1st time she used our services) and told her I had many others that I’d like to try (as a dishwasher) she said “NO, I’m afraid to try someone else”. There were some other issues that led up to him quitting. So she is now afraid to employ someone with disabilities. And this gentleman had hidden disabiliies.
    Others “know the system”. When they realize that their benefits are reduced yet don’t understand that they are earning more money it frustrates them. They then quit because their bridge card (food stamps) were decreased to $15/month and it use to almost be $100.
    So now I have a few folks that don’t want community work at all yet are totally capable of it.

  29. Whitney says:

    Micheal stated correctly there are bad shelter work programs and good ones but with out any enforcement rules they are getting a bad rep. Changing the system and reforming is not dismantling it,

    DAdvocate is also is correct in the sense the money and these services are underfunded. So spend the money more wisely. The problem to many advocates are not listening to concerns of another sect who are being felt maligned by shelter workplaces. I am not saying the completely right but they are not completely wrong either. If one voice is saying something and many start to say something most likely there is some validity to their argument. Job coaches should know difference from a high and low functioning person with disabilities. The solutions for the two groups will be different. DOJ is responding a case that was brought by a group felt pressured in going shelter work program. I do not believe that this could end shelter work programs but should be a wake up call.

    Allen is correct as well there is clear void of not understanding Developmental Disabilities by the Job Coach. I am not faulting the Employer because the program is set up for a certain type of disability at a functioning level and the clients of Job coaches will not always fit that criteria. Employers are going hire the skill set that is right for the business they are in.

  30. Christopher Worth says:

    I cannot believe the person who wrote just before me! I’m an adult with a disability in competitive employment today! Who who was being prepared for a sheltered workshop environment. Up until the age of 11. I was barely taught how to read or write and had to learn this, all of this, very late in life after being adopted.

    Supported employment does not equal being thrown to the wolves! I wish when thinking about people with disabilities, we would think about possibilities and not ideas of what we predetermine that we won’t be able to do. Human potential, the human mind, human heart, and spirit goes beyond perceived limitations.

    Yes, people with disabilities may need support. Look at the statement I just wrote, and see the universal truth in it. We all need support the matter neurologically typical were not, Disable or Able we all need support!

    Too often I hear a what if they can’t. Poor things… This is not a Charles Dickens novel, I have to remind myself, we’ve moved forward as a society… And then I read what’s below my comment and I get sad. Then the fire in my belly rages and I’m reminded we have a long way to go. And, I have promises to keep to my family, my friends, my culture, society and myself… I have miles to go before I sleep, we have miles to go before we sleep!

    Thank you activist on the front lines, policymakers, and Rhode Island citizens for taking the 1st steps. It’s going to be difficult but collectively we can do it!

  31. Whitney says:

    Chris. Is that directed towards me?

    I think getting rid of shelter work programs is unrealistic. It is far easier to get rid of something put something new in place. If you want something to compete against a shelter work program then do so create an alternative to phase them out. The problem Shelter Work Programs do have a structure and network in place and for whatever program we put in place a we would have that network for to move people to a less supportive environment.

    Not all functioning levels of disabilities will able to wean off shelter work program but that does not mean all functioning levels should be stuck there. People with disabilities are lacking the training they need to maintain competitive jobs. Americans are not getting the skills they need to get competitive jobs even they do not have a disability. There been no real incentive to train people with competitive skills in the current job market.

    I am not denying there massive flaws in the Shelter Work Program but it does benefit people with very low intelligence by providing them feeling they are accomplishing something. The other problem is public perception of person with disabilities is being intellectually disabled. That is where education in the social work has failed some the advocates for disabilities. The other problem is there no equal standard for all the states for services to the disabled. Some of the posters here come states who are trying to do what is right for the disabled. There are states like my own would prefer all people with disabilities to be put institutions. (I am not joking it does happen in my state). It is another position I been advocating is a uniform conduct for disabilities for all states on national policy. I know states that been rated on services….Texas is 2nd to last after Mississipi.

  32. Borgi Beeler says:

    I am so glad to see so many comments from people that actually understand this issue! Please keep talking, especially to your state’s congressional representatives. People with disabilities are not all the same. Some can benefit from competitive employment and should have that opportunity. Others simply will not be able to, and we need to provide appropriate services and opportunities for everybody!!

    It is amazing how this industry reacts to things. We have grown immensely in the way that we treat people. Yes, maybe at times things have moved too slow. And of course not all places get it right. But look at our progress! We need to be careful that we continue to make progress and not jump into something that may be beneficial to some but extremely harmful to many.

    I think that part of the problem is that we are trained not to talk about people’s challenges in order to protect dignity. So our politicians don’t hear about the stuff that goes on. But those of us that actually work in the industry… We all know that for every success story, there are many more people that need too much support to be in a public work environment. Aggression, OCD, wandering, inability to follow directions, inability to initiate a task, … All things that can be dealt with in a controlled environment. With the right conditions and staff support, people with severe limitations and issues can participate in work and other worthwhile activities. Without that… Then what?

  33. Lorna Dempster says:

    Here we go, throwing out the baby with the bath water. While I agree that some are far worse than others, there are those that provide a nurturing environment that meets the personal needs of these clients. The workshop environment builds confidence in a non-threatening environment, encourages camaraderie, and creates a sense of ownership in the operation. I never understand why Government acts with an all or nothing attitude. Sometimes good is good enough.

  34. s killam says:

    so glad to hear that this is beginning to change across the nation. Sheltered and segregated day programs are like prisons. It is only the administrators and directors who are getting well-paid. the staff and individuals with disabilities are paid menial wages and there are few real opportunities for upward mobility for either of them. State and federal dollars should not be spent on this type of service.

  35. s killam says:

    jobs…jobs…jobs. that is what people want. the folks that run sheltered workshops do not know how to effectively run employment agencies….look at the lack of outcome of their system. these sheltered centers were supposed to be to teach people work skills yet the statistics show that very, very few ever leave the center for community jobs. let the sheltered workshops continue on but don’t fund them. get people jobs and do it with qualified and certified employment staff.

  36. Kathy Lyles says:

    ..And this is the biggest mistake Rhode Island could ever make. They really don’t have a clue about Sheltered Workshops if they think this is what goes on in ALL of them.

    I want to see them fund these new services they are talking about. 10 year plan? What will they all until then? Good luck with that!

  37. Michael says:

    So, when I joined in to this discussion, it was with people that wanted to discuss opinion to make their case, not win by being angriest. I mention this folks because this is what politics have become in America, by getting ugly, but most people in social service industries, I would hope, are driven to it for compassionate reasons. Let’s not let compassionate advocacy become angry advocacy, because it only provokes one of two responses- silence from those that don’t want to engage, or fight response from those attacked who are equally passionate about their perspective. This is basic fight or flight.

    The enemy here is funding. All the insults hurled at job coaches not knowing what they are doing, workshops not being able to do the job, and “administrators and directors” getting well paid (ha, tell that to my children), are not needed. You want a statistic that will scare you, it is published somewhere a statistic that by the year 2020, approximately 1 of every 2 Americans will be defined as “Special Needs”, which includes (for the purpose of the research) I/DD, physical disabilities, MI, addiction related disability, dementia, Alzheimers, and advanced aging. I cannot source that, but I’d say its likely fairly accurate. So who is going to help who? One of every two people that have replied are going to need help; the others can care for them, I guess 24 hour care. This is a crisis, even if the statistic is only kinda close. So, everyone is jockeying for funding, in what is already a tight funding world. You win by making the other side look bad. Period.

    We need to be better than this. The politicians are the ones that screwed this up, permitting an environment of paying a State operated developmental center union janitor $85,000, such as occurred in our state, to keep the unions beholdent to the correct party vote. I don’t begrudge a janitor making money, but to the shot that s killam took, that is more than what I make as an administrator thank you. And I don’t get that peachy state benefits package. The states detroyed their budgets, one at a time, and now their simply is no money to be had, unless we double everyone’s taxes, renig on retirement packages, or “redistribute” wealth. Okay folks, our client base does not have a voice, not because of institutions or sheltered workshops, but because this industry has no money as a special interest group to influence government. We have to rely on charitable acts, such as when they graciously decide not to cut our budget. Even this year, in our state, they have put through a budget with a $1/hr increase for staff. That’s great, they raised their rates, only the 4th time in 12 years, but did so in a way to tell their voting pool that “we did that for you”. It doesn’t account for the 30% of our organization that are not direct care workers, who we will give an increase to so they are not suffered, and so the net effect is the state graciously adding to our deficit. the lesson here is these are macro issues that cannot be solved with micro answers. To say that everyone with I/DD will benefit from this decision is as incorrect as saying no one will benefit from it. The problem is, the state is forcing the “everyone will” stance. Oh, and if you want to know how the state is going to make this work, look at the DOJ bulletin just released today, which highlights three case studies of people “saved” from the sheltered workshop. Of the three, two have gone on to work for the state (hah, you can’t make this stuff up!).

    Everyone, please no attacks, we have to think together to come up with better solutions. To Christopher W, I’m glad as a self-advocate that you are part of this discussion, but you have to understand that while its great that you can compose your thoughts into a dynamic, interactive blog, some of us work with people that cannot identify themselves in a mirror, or recognize their parents, or say the word “mom”. Not one person that has advocated for sheltered workshops has said that you belong in one, or wouldn’t fight for your right to work, but please don’t think that your experience defines the needs of every person with a disability.

  38. Walter Weeks says:

    Shame on us. We ignore the most important thing about serving people: Each of us is different, including our friends and family members with IDD. An intellectual disability by itself should not define me any more than being fat or thin. It is the whole package: What are my strengths, what do I enjoy in life, and what gets in my way?

    Segregated services are not the enemy here. It is limiting people to a single option that is wrong. All of my colleagues in NC want integrated employment to be the first choice for people. However, if enough things (such as behaviors, personal care needs, multiple and complex needs) “get in the way” or if the person simply prefers to work or learn around people with whom he/she has more in common, we should be providing options to fit his/her needs. But let’s fund these services at a level that engenders innovation and active engagement.

    It may surprise many people that my organization loses money on our production. We do not take advantage of the people we serve. For example, an average worker may produce a hundred widgets in an hour. I pay each of the people we serve as much for one hundred widgets as that average worker would make. Since it may take one of my workers five hours to produce 100 widgets, I pay for an extra four hours of utilities, supervision, and other expenses. Those costs cannot all be passed along to a customer.

    The people who seek our services today have little in common with those who sought “sheltered workshop” services twenty years ago. Those who simply have been labeled “I/DD” rarely come in our doors now. Others, who would have been more at risk for institutionalization twenty years ago, sometimes seek us out because the combination of their level of intellectual functioning and other hurdles in their lives limit their options for supported employment. Sure, we still serve some people who I believe could function well in supported employment or other integrated activities. Isn’t it great that I don’t get to tell them how they have to spend their lives?

    In short, let’s recognize that people are different and give them options and opportunities from which to choose. Don’t blame those of us who work to find grants, donations, and more efficient ways of operating to supplement the limited funding we receive. Our governments should show they value their constituents with developmental disabilities enough to fund their services appropriately. You would be surprised at the personalized services some of my colleagues and I could provide given adequate funding and the insight we gain from working with so many wonderfully different people each day.

  39. Whitney says:

    No, Micheal. I am not going say the politicians screw this up because they are elected officials. Some where along the line we drop the ball in advocacy. By not listening to people who should not be limited to employment in shelter work programs which is not right for them. Yes and no on the job coaches. There are good job coaches and bad ones too. The bad ones makes things harder for the good ones. The good job coaches are aware of different functioning levels of people with disabilities. The bad ones just push people into shelter work programs even the employers know it is not right for them. This ruling should be just as it is a wake up call to some problems that shelter work programs created. What it is saying there some major problems that need to be fixed.

  40. tim bennett says:

    north carolina shame on you it’s time to the sheltered workshops down for good sub minimum wages are illegal and wrong it’s for so called sheltered workshops/sweatshops goodwill industries of central north carolina operates one in greensboro i worked at their sheltered sweatshop i quit after 34 days they wanted me to work another 30 days i told the vocational rehabalitation counselor i’m not interested also i told the others no 2 weeks i get a call from judy lockhart are you going back i said no 3 months the same question have you reconsidered returning to goodwill i told her no goodwill industries is nothing but greedy self centered sweatshop 1.oo/hour you could afford to pay more shame on you goodwill industries and other sheltered workshops to north carolina end slavery now

  41. Andrew says:

    They are cutting the funding in NY for sheltered workshops and it’s a travesty. As someone who works with these individuals, only about 15% could reasonably function in a less restricted environment. For those 15%, the workshop is providing valuable training for when they are skilled enough to actually enter the workforce. For the others, I fear that they will be forced into a Day Hab program and stuck watching tv, coloring and overall wasting their time. Many of our folks are aware that this might happen as funding is cut and both they and their families understand that they just won’t be able to work and contribute any longer. These regulations are made by people who have never set foot in a workshop and have no clue about this population. We are completely self-funded, NO MEDICAID dollars are spent, each individual makes their own way. Good luck with that once they are out of a job and can’t complete in the workforce. We do rollerskating or bowling after work on Thursdays and pizza parties on Fridays. It is a great way for our individuals to socialize and work on relationship building, not too mention they build these skills while at work! I have seen all too often that this goes away once they are forced into a more demanding work environment with typical employees who see them as a burden. Please don’t waste our resources! The Sheltered workshop program is great if not abused; which rarely is the case.

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