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Deal In Congress Would Discourage Sheltered Workshops


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A bipartisan deal is paving the way for Congress to require most people with disabilities to try competitive employment first before they could be employed by a sheltered workshop.

Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives said this week that they’ve come to an agreement on a long-delayed reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. Within the proposal is a plan to dramatically alter the path from school to work for those with disabilities.

Currently, many individuals in special education leave high school and are referred directly to sheltered workshops where pay is often less than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. Under the proposed legislation, however, young people with disabilities in most cases would be required to pursue competitive, integrated employment.

Under what’s known as section 511 of the bill, individuals with disabilities ages 24 and younger could not be employed by those paying so-called subminimum wage before seeking out vocational rehabilitation services, among other requirements.

Meanwhile, the legislation mandates that state vocational rehabilitation agencies work with schools to provide “pre-employment transition services” to all students with disabilities and such agencies would be required to devote at least 15 percent of their federal funding to help young people transition from school to work.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who initiated the proposal, said the changes would be “groundbreaking” for people with disabilities.

“It will stem the flow of young people into segregated employment by requiring that they be given experience in integrated settings,” the senator said.

When Harkin first proposed the plan last summer, some disability advocacy groups expressed concern that it offered little more than a checklist for vocational rehabilitation agencies to continue shuffling people to sheltered workshops. However, tweaks to the bill have largely eased those worries.

“We believe that the revised compromise language in section 511, while not perfect by any means, will help to reduce the number of youth with disabilities being tracked into subminimum wage employment,” said Christopher Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind, which had initially opposed Harkin’s plan, but now supports it.

Danielsen called the current proposal an “important first step toward eliminating wage discrimination against people with disabilities.”

Now that a deal has been reached, the bill is expected to go before the Senate and House again to be voted on.

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Comments (50 Responses)

  1. U Say Hello says:

    We will miss Tom Harkin when he retires. While the debate may continue on the value of sheltered workshops, individuals with disabilities should be given the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers to explore work experiences, real work experiences, in high school. And outside of true job training with employment at the end of the training, minimum wage laws should apply to everyone.

  2. tashi says:

    I find this very depressing. I forsee even more of my current students stuck at home with nothing to do. For some of the most severely disabled a sheltered workshop was our ultimate goal and we worked hard to really get them to that point.
    I wish people would remember that there is a very large range with in the disabled community and that they may be opening doors for some but they are setting walls around others.
    Very sad. As it is several workshops have already been discontinues so now they will close the door on even more persons with disabilities. Sad, very sad.

  3. Cheryl Fogarty says:

    I work with children and young adults with severe and complex disabilities. Many of our students have significant physical, cognitive or behavioral issues. We have a comprehensive Transition Program and many if not all of our graduates (age 21) transition to adult day programs and some to volunteer job opportunities. How will this Bill effect these young people?

  4. Arlene Petite says:

    I am a transition Counselor in a Public School. I am very excited about the possibility that more of my students may become competitively employed, but I am also concerned about my students who are not competitively employable. May of my students are very vulnerable. We live in a very sick society and mean people, sick, depraved will prey upon these vulnerabilities. About two years ago there was an incident where a young intellectually challenged woman was killed by five people who themselves have intellectual challenges. The horrific torture and death that this young woman suffered is tragic. I am also reminded that several of my own students have become addicted to drugs including alcohol at the hands of mean, sick people. I have had too give students money to get to work because people stole their checks, or to feed them because they didn’t have money.

    I know that things need to change, but we need to make sure that our children are protected.

  5. LynneT says:

    As the parent of a young adult with very severe multiple disabilities and little prospect of competitive employment, I dislike the sole emphasis on competitive employment. At the same time, I don’t see sheltered workshops as any kind of solution if the goal is a meaningful day. We need new thinking (or more acceptance of existing alternatives) for this group of people!

  6. Vernon says:

    In my teens and my young adult day as a mental health client, I started my first jobs at Shelter Workshops,
    they help me get through my mental ordeals, to the point I was about to going in the Army, and when I got
    out, and couldn’t find work, I went to the State Dept. of Rehabilition, and asked them if they could get me
    in a SWS, they did. I net my wife there, and worked at pice wage, to offset from my SSI, and when I was
    made a trainer, got a salary.

    But I saw that the wickness of the workshops where who owed or ran the place, most of the places, I worked
    at was profit making, and the one I worked at that was non-profit, close because of not enough contract, and
    when they had a chance for government funds they turn it down do to the paper work.

    If I was asked to go back to work at one, I do it, or start one of my own I would, the two real problem are who run them and SSI. If you work out these two problem, and keep them non-profit, the SWS will work,
    and benefit a person to be a good worker to go into the workforce, or just a good work at a SWS.

    Thank You.

  7. Dani Feeirstien says:

    What a lousy idea. Many people with disabilities cannot find or hold job in a non workshop setting.
    sector This needs t be up to the families not congress. My son cannot compete in a job ,market. Nr can he handle the stress of a regular job. Congress need to mind it;’s own business and not interfere.

  8. frannie v says:

    everybody should not be lumped together which this bill will do. what happened to family and individuals right to choose. everybody does not fit into one category. next when they eliminate the sub minimum wage thousands of disabled people will be unemployed. with the push to raise the minimum wage the competition for jobs will be fierce. thank goodness I will be retiring soon. of course with the extra funding state agencies will bloat their budgets with more do nothing high priced managers.

  9. Rita Smith says:

    This Bill is good in one way bad in another.The Good is maybe there will be some money available for the school work program and VR to help those individuals who can handle it. Hopefully the Bill will not be a cookie cutter type that says all people with developmental disabilities will have to go through The VR process first.I think that determination still needs to be left in the hands of the people who are familiar with the persons abilities and cognitive skills.Maybe the sheltered workshop is all that some can handle and if they are thrown into the VR process first they could be so traumatized that they wouldn’t want to go anywhere but home.

  10. Terry A says:

    I am very concerned I have worked in this field many years I would like to see everyone have a real choice of the work environment that fits their need. I have seen workshops close to show how successful the non-profit is but they do not follow up with the quality of life the individual may have after the “successful closure”. It is a real shame that individuals are forced into a setting that may make them uncomfortable, and may not meet the specific needs of the individual.

  11. Tina says:

    Here’s an idea, what if congress was paid these wages and had to walk in the shoes of our disabled community members? What if they had to deal with life as our young adults do…things would change very fast….our children/teens/young adults did not ask to have their disabilities, but society and legislature seems to think that our community deserves less than neurotypical or non-disabled members of society…
    Until society becomes more accepting our community, things will never change, our members continue to face discrimination and stigmatization because of their disabilities – this is 2014, not 1965….where is the justice for our communities?
    But than again we have Reps in Congress shooting down legislation to help our vets, but passing bills that will help provide not only business but profits to weapon manufacturers…so go figure where the priorities are … and profit over people!!!!!

  12. Mike says:

    For those where competitive employment is a reasonable possibility this is great. For those where it is not, countless dollars and time will be spent to demonstrate what is often obvious.

  13. Cathy says:

    This is good news to me. Our experiences in KS have been nothing but negative. My son has been in two workshops, each in a different part of the state. I think that if some of those concerned about the “severely” disabled were to walk through these two workshops, you would see a majority seem to be very capable and good, fast workers. I often wondered why they were not in the community. The most severely disabled here usually aren’t working at all. A shortage of jobs is often mentioned as a reason they can’t be in the community but sometimes I wonder if it isn’t easier to just stick them in the workshop. I think it would be easier to try a community setting prior to placing them in the workshops because once there, I don’t think they have much chance of getting out. Sort of like an institution. We had “toured” the workshops and saw these workers and our son worked for the first couple of months making $20.00 the first month and about $14.00 the second month. He was there 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. He was doing piece work, sitting across the table from people who were VERY distracting. He finally got so bored that he was just sitting there spaced out with no one really caring one way or the other. It took a few visits for me to nail down the issues. The basic attitude was that they were providing a job, take it or leave it. We choose to leave it. We have now lost day services because we could not find a suitable program. They have long waiting lists and you go to the bottom but not us, we aren’t waiting anymore for something like this. Everyone keeps talking about sub-minimum wage, my son was making $7.00 a month. My issue was that I computed what he did, put a giant nut and giant washer on a bolt earned 1 cent each. I am pretty fast with my hands and picking up the three pieces, putting them together and then placing them in a box – 6 a minute probably less as an average since they have to perfectly line up but say 6 x 60 would $3.60 an hour for someone efficient and fast, probably less. So? Let’s try to get them in the community. I think my son would do well in a community setting but at this point, no one would ever let him try.

  14. Jobs says:

    tashi, read what it says they are to “try competitive employment first before they could be employed by a sheltered workshop.” Everyone should be given the same opportunities as others to explore work experiences, jobs that they have an interest in doing. Not just putting wigets together making mere pennies. Also remember who’s goal you should be striving for. What you feel is right for your student may not be the student would really like to do.

  15. Margie Sillery says:

    I hope this is a step in the right direction, although I think that there will always be a population of individuals who, for a variety of reasons, will not thrive in competitive employment. Furthermore this legislation must be supported with jobs for people at the other end and not just stop sheltered workshops altogether. That would be disastrous, because then the only option for some would be no work at all.

  16. Cindy Carpenter says:

    So how do they get hired my son got and lost jobs intil he entered sheltered employment you all in DC need to experience the trenches

  17. Addie says:

    So what did they put in the bill that will give the employers financial and other incentives to hire our children and work with the Dept of Rehab services to transition them to successful work after the hire? I agree with giving more funding and directives to the schools but there also has to be a change to create better job training for the jobs that are there. Currently it is parents who are creating the businesses and training for their young adults who have disabilities. While there are protections and rights for students in public schools, when they are out of school now they only have “equal opportunity to compete” which is not enough to get jobs when competing with their non-disabled peers.

  18. Linda Miller says:

    Not all people with disabilities can work competitively. There needs to be a range of options to meet the needs of all people with disabilities. Also in my state support services for disabled are funded by waivers and waivers are no way guaranteed and most of our young graduates if they receive any funding are only receiving only small capped waivers. There are large waiting lists and many young adults with disabilities are without any source of funding. Who is going to help them become competitively employed. I fear many of kids will be sitting with us their aging parents when they exit the educational system.

  19. Sue M says:

    Wake up people, it’s not about ensuring that individuals with disabilities get good paying jobs, or ensuring full integration, it’s about the money. It’s far less expensive to allow someone to work their token two hours per-day or in some cases per-week, then pay for programming.

    We all know that there are individuals out there that will never be employed in a competitive setting, and yet we are determined to keep them from entering the one place that will allow them an opportunity to work. How is sitting home playing video games or walking the mall going to prepare an individual for employment? It’s not.

    This is as sad as the entitlement program itself. I recently had an employee reduce her hours because she was “making too much money”. She had seen a reduction in her food share benefits as well as her housing assistance, so she cut her hours in half. She gets more for doing less. How about you focus more on this system, then the one that encourages a work ethic, provides opportunity, and allows everyone no matter how significant the disability an opportunity to work.

  20. Dolores says:

    For me the words “REQUIRED and MANDATED” are EXTREMELY troubling. There is a great need for a check and balance in this program which will give the individuals that can handle this situation the right to earn a good living but also protect the individuals that fit better into a workshop situation or for one reason or another would find it harmful to be ‘forced’ into any type of work/volunteer activity. There is no way around it….the wording “required and mandated” equal control.

  21. specialangelsmom says:

    This is disgraceful! Many hundreds of thousands of individuals with severe developmental disabilities will be left home doing nothing. Since funding for care in the home is also being cut, as is residential funding, what will happen to them? No one to care for them, nothing to do & no where to go. Another amazing decision by a clueless congress!!!!

  22. Sean McManus says:

    I live with 4 other guys and 5 ladies and 3 of them do work in Shelter workshops and it makes me sick to hear this story. I do live in Heritage Christian Services group home on South Forest in Williamsville, NY

  23. People 2 says:

    Forcing people with disabilities into a world of work where lack of success in finding a job will be a common outcome is absolutely not okay. People without disabilities get discouraged and depressed in this job market. People with disabilities may very well not be able to differentiate “there are very few jobs and I was one of 100 applicants from “I wasn’t good enough to get the job again.” I teach high school students with significant intellectual delays. We do great work preparing these young people for the world of work, but they end up sitting at home until there is a spot for them in voc rehab or a similar program. Their wages are low so as not to interfere with SSI–and that is a family matter. This new law would have these people sitting around until they are 24? Unacceptable. The increased funding would be better spent funding 18-21 transition programs in the public schools. If we had the funds to access the community for work sites and increase social/emotional training, our students would be stiff competition for prospective employees of all abilities, no matter how few jobs there might be.

  24. Bert Kormann says:

    Well, there are many pro & con comments on the issue, all of which are valid. There is a place for trying to maximize every individuals opportunities, but at what cost. There truly are many young people that will not be adequately prepared for competitive employment immediately after high school, many others might never be. the spirit of this bill is to push everyone to their maximum ability. So can we find some middle ground? We as a nation spend innumerable amounts of money on helping people to find jobs. Today’s market being what it is, I don’t understand what people are being helped towards because there is such a severe lack of adequate employment to support one’s self. Yes, there is a place where everyone can fit in vocationally, unfortunately, there are too few of those that can employ the most challenged of our youth. More of the funds we earmark for employment support should be re-directed to job creation, namely comapny start up funding. The jobs that are sent aborad need to return to our shores or we will never recover economically, much less the absorption of the many that come into the age of employment every June. If much of our job search monies are invested in social enterprise comapnies to employ our new young workers, we might just make a go of it. Let’s get this discussion going! there are many small projects growing all over the country, we need more of them!

  25. Noelle says:

    I agree with most of the comments above. Another example of government trying to “help” without understanding the scope of people it will affect. They think all disabled adults fit within the category they have been exposed to without taking into account the difference between the cognitive, physical, cognitive and physical not to mention the range of disability within each one.

    As an educator I have seen this over and over where they make a ruling for “disabled” to help one level and never realize the negative impact they’ve had on another group of higher or lower functioning individuals that fall under that same broad category.

  26. Dadvocate says:

    Great. Force some with severe disabilities to try and fail at a competitive job (if they can even find one) before they they can make their preferred choice. Why, because Tom Harkin says he knows what’s best for you. Yeeeesh. Hopefully this bill ends up like 95% of them do. In the dustbin of bad ideas. While much of the underlying intention is terrific, the means which advocates like Harkin are willing to employ to gain their desired end, mandates and force, are repugnant. Any enlightened and fair policy needs to respect the desires of people who disagree with an approach. Even if you think they’re wrong. This one size size fits all mindset has got to go. A policy designed for someone with a physical disability may be right or completely wrong for someone with a severe intellectual or developmental disability. Choice and flexibility should guide policy, not rigid ideology.

  27. Dick Fisher says:

    I have worked for different Sheltered Workshops for 35 years. Thing have changed 3 or 4 times in those years, may be for the good may be not, but are leaving the disabled out of the picture. Shops when started were for the very severally individuals coming out of the mental institutions and into a Sheltered environments. It was up to the doctors and parents to decide what was the best direction for their siblings. Not Congress or Senate) . Directions changed to include many of other disabilities to include substance abuse and mental illness. The non profit Shops through the years provided many opportunities for all persons with disabilities to learn a job skill through staff working one on one or group productions lines. This gave the opportunity to for them to work under direction of staff (would be supervisor in employment) and with others type of disabilities and also work with the persons that represented the Contracts acquired from Corporations, Companies and Small Businesses. I found that the person that was ready to be employed made a easier transaction to employment and was more accepted into those businesses. As it is now the Senate and Congress is going to force the agencies that provide services to flood the business world with people who are not trained and fresh out of School and will ruin the possibility of some that are trained. All this now in a jobless world. Most shops when I retired were in the direction of one on one and job seekers. Businesses at this time are not able to be ready for this flood. I worked hard for those contracts and made some very good contacts for repeat business and was able to retire with the feeling that I played a import part in those individual lives that moved to competitive employment.

  28. marge bailey says:

    I know it will affect some negatively, however, I also think it will affect those positively. I have a lot of experience with a national disability workshop vendor. They have the opportunity to pay these individuals a better wage than sheltered workshop, but they choose not to for their own gains. Let me give you an example. I had a client who had a physical disability who loved to fix computers. He took these donated computers from all over the state and wiped the hard drive, reformatted them and got them ready for sale. They sold all of these computers and he was busy all day long. He was such a pro he began teaching others at the sheltered workshop, both participants and staff how to do it. I asked if he could be a paid employee and they said they didn’t have the funds. I reiterated how he wanted to be a paid employee, had shown he could do it, but it was all about money. They wanted to be reimbursed for him as his work became free. I told them how disheartening this was. I see this time and time again with this national disability workshop provider, probably the largest in this nation.

  29. George Gehr says:

    Sen. Harkin means well, I am sure. As a professional working in the field I agree there are numerous persons with disabilities who may be able to succeed in competitive employment with the proper support and training. To be sure that is always the ultimate goal. However, by requiring people to try competitive employment first we will only be setting them up to fail. That is never a good thing. We may not want to admit it but the cold hard fact is this: most people with developmental disabilities will never hold a full time competitive employment position. At best they may be able to work part time, with coaching and support, while spending most of their time in vocational rehab. I wish it weren’t so, but I don’t see viable alternatives.

  30. Pasquale Ginese says:

    for some people with developmental disabilities this is wonderful. for those who rely on sheltered workshops and cannot hold employment this is disheartening. When a small town where the main employer is the sheltered workshop this law is not good. it is a matter of those who can advocate for a system change that benefits the masses but forgets the rest of those who cannot advocate for themselves.
    The law forgets it is about choice for all, that is forgotten here.

  31. Nancy Loomis says:

    I am a job developer at a small non-profit and work to place adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities in paid and volunteer positions. I know how difficult it is to place even our high-functioning clients in paid work. For those individuals who are not as high-functioning, there are employers that we go to on a regular basis for volunteer placements, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Many of our clients who volunteer will never be able to do more than they are doing now. Then a number of them are fully able to do paid work even with the employer where they volunteer. Convicing these employers to begin to transition some of the volunteers to paid work, work that they could do or are currently doing, however, is another problem and presents an injustice to capable adults who have given thousands of hours of free time.

    As I am reading the comments, I can see (and have observed myself) that sheltered workshops can offer individuals with multiple physical and intellectual barriers who would never be able to work in a paid position, a way to have a meaningful day and some extra pocket money. I’m not sure I understand why sheltered workshops who are well-run and treat their clients with dignity, are now being closed. I’m sure there needs to be changes in the how workshops are managed and standards put in place, but a wholesale push or legislation to close them down is not the answer and will create more problems for support agencies and difficulties for those individuals who need the workshops.

  32. Lee Chase says:

    While as the director of an agency serving a broad range of intellectual disabilities that has strongly focused on employment outcomes for our persons supported – I fear this is the first step in dismantling choices [and opportunities] for some of our more challenged individuals. Competitive employment is a worthy goal – but for some will be unreachable. Hopefully this will allow a better option for some of our young disabled graduates, but as others have stated – possibly the opposite for others.

  33. Bonnie says:

    It is important to remember that competitive employment includes supported employment, an option which can enable individuals with very significant disabilities to be successfully employed.

  34. George White says:

    I am completing my internship at a non profit organization that has a sheltered workshop that is due to be closed in about a year. We are running a Work Place Success Group that is in the process of training individuals to transition from the SWS to employment in the community. As has already been mentioned, however, disabilities come in many forms and levels of severity. Some of the more higher functioning persons will be successful, but others will probably fail. This leaves the question; Where do they go now? Although the government at this time is only “discouraging” employment in Sheltered Workshops, it will only be a matter of time before government intervention outlaws them. Government intervention brought about the Olmstead Act in the 90’s and as a result mental institutions were forced to close. We now have mentally ill people sleeping under bridges and on the streets, those we now call “the homeless”. The federal government seems poised to exacerbate the problem by closing the sheltered workshops.

  35. Cindy Duch says:

    Too many commenters are focusing on the negative and not the positive. Time to face it–some people who are working in sheltered workshops could very well work in competitive employment. They were never given the chance. Look at inclusive education for example. How many times were parents and inclusive education advocates told, “she won’t get anything out of it”? Now we are well aware of the benefits of inclusive education for ALL students. Set the bar low, and it will definitely be achieved. Set the bar high and the potential grows! Getting Vocational Rehab into schools earlier is certainly not going to hurt anyone. If you’re a parent who has been through transition, you know you can never start planning early enough. No one says this is meant to be a one-size fits all. As we have all experienced, disability is a natural part of the human experience, and now is the time to presume competence for all students. I wholeheartedly agree with U Say Hello, Tom Harkin will be sorely missed as a champion for the disability community. It is now up to us, constituents and advocates, to ensure his great message continues. This is only a start.

  36. Janice says:

    It’s about time! Our family members deserve better than sheltered workshops. They should be discontinued.
    Competitive employment in the community begins in school during the transition years with training and support.The system is flawed and needs to be fixed. Our children are set up for failure by keeping them in segregated “Life Skills” classrooms where they learn very little about functioning in the community.

  37. JoAnn M. Hardy, LCSW says:

    “Sub-minimum wage employment” is only legal in sheltered workshops. People are only in sheltered workshops because they are not capable of competitive employment and are less productive than the average worker. This is determined not by assumptions motivated by bias, but by testing. Sheltered workshops are an important way to achieve a sense of productivity, enhance self-esteem and improve skills. They provide the disabled a way to make a contribution, even when they cannot hold a competitive job and actually receive a paycheck, something that has become a symbol of value in our society. Through those paychecks, which they actually earn, they reduce the governments financial support by reducing their SSI and SNAP benefits. They provide the social contacts and relationships others get in the workplace and reduce isolation, thus providing experiences important to mental health. They also provide SHELTER from exploitation, abuse, bullying and offer a sense of safety to the vulnerable disabled. They provide medical and behavioral monitoring and are staffed by people who are screened and trained to assist the disabled and who are comfortable around those who have special needs. This cannot be provided in a competitive work environment. Sheltered workshops ARE NOT legalized discrimination! They are an important part of the life of those who have no other options, not because they are victims of discrimination, but because they cannot function safely in a competitive, often unkind world. They provide time for their families/caretakers to work, focus on other responsibilities and enjoy respite from the stresses of providing physical, cognitive and emotional support and protection to the disabled person. Sheltered workshops cannot be replaced by adult daycare. Any legislation that, either by design or unintended effect, jeopardizes the existence of sheltered workshops is unwise at best and potentially catastrophic to the disabled and their families! I urge our legislators to act wisely, to tread lightly and remember that every bird cannot be an eagle.

  38. Whitney says:

    I am not saying that the high functioning are being discriminated against by sheltered work programs. The question if high functioning are becoming hackers and committed cyber crimes which is the case in technology why not tap into this resource. You do not hire techies at the rate of shelter work programs. It is monumentally stupid. How are going protect your private data? You are not. People with high functioning autism are great with computers and can code like nobody business. Yes shelter work programs are hurting high functioning disabilities. Why should techies who have disabilities support something that works against them? No group would. Why should techies with disabilities support other people feelings when they harm? Again no group care about theirs and it quid pro quo. NT seem to scream bloody murder when High functioning self advocating? They speaking for themselves and we fighting our rights. Since no one is doing the adequate job of doing that. That the problem of Shelter Work Programs it is too much leeway different levels of services existing in the states. Just because it acceptable to NTs how they treat people with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities this way does not make right. If NT thinks that acceptable they should do it as well.

    Shelter Work Programs should be strictly monitored to prevent labor abuse. In Texas they live to find ways to promote labor abuse.

  39. Concerned says:

    While I agree this looks good on paper. My concern is that for those who really are a match for sheltered employment because there is limited time in the transition planning phase of IDEA before the student ceases to be supported, If these students required the time and support of the transition process to prepare for employment and it is used for competitive employment opportunities that they can not realistically do, it decreases the amount of time and support for these adults when the competitive placements don’t work out. The supports in adult services (after 21) are very limited. So those who might have had opportunities for the appropriate match of sheltered employment are now without placements because they haven’t been prepared.
    I think that there should be a requirement for consideration of competitive employment in the transition planning process but not to require thar path when it it is clearly not appropriate. Only the student, family, and transition team can make those decisions. It should not be legislated in a cookie cutter fashion.

  40. Emily says:

    I am all for this bill. My son has a disability and we were told by that the school the local sheltered workshop was the only option. We refused to accept that, and found a mainstream internship and he is now in a vocational training program. He is on the path for competitive employment with supports when needed, thankfully. This bill will give people with disabilities more opportunities and hopefully encourage providers and families to have higher expectations.

  41. Ruth J. says:

    Tom Harkin and lawmakers don’t get it and seem do not understand the huge range of “people with disabilities”. This is not a one size fits all problem. They also forget that many of the public schools have given up on even our high functioning children with disabilities (enjoying the funding while pulling actual support). Many parents choose to teach at home so at least they can work on life skills they will need as adults instead of just passing them on from grade to grade. Where are the resources for them?

  42. Cathy says:

    I have to wonder how many people singing the praises for the sheltered workshops have spent very much time there. The ones in KS are filled with older people that have came out of institution. If your adult child spends 2 weeks there, you’ll spend months trying to modify the behaviors, institutional, that they pick up. It is not a safe environment for someone that can’t “tell”. Whenever a client told me something when I was dropping off my son, if mentioned to staff I got “They are just confused.” It all started to add up. Seriously, the majority are not “severely disabled” that are actually doing labor since the most severely disabled aren’t capable of working as they generally are barely functional. Once behind those doors, they develop institutional behavior. Most are medicated to the point they just stare into space – I would need to be medicated to endure that atmosphere too. And, it is when you go in the back door unannounced that you get the best “education” on the subject of “sheltered” workshops. Also, check sometime with Adult Protective Services on complaints filed against them. Go beyond the surface.

  43. Chaz Nickolaus says:

    I am sadden too by the many comments that have extremely low expectations for children and especially those from teachers with low expectations. In our state we are very dependent on workshops, the dirty little secert is that these places aren’t for those with the most significant disabilities, but for those who could easily work in other community places. Those with significant disabilities are “retired” to day programs or sitting on the couch.

  44. Becky Carr says:

    This sounds like a wonderful step toward eliminating discrimination for persons with disability and encourages them to try regular employment options, which can sometimes work out just fine with proper counseling and consideration of the person’s talents, abilities, and issues.

  45. Pat says:

    I wonder if some of the same fears and anxiety existed when some folks first talked about people with disabilities moving out of state run institutions 40 years ago? There is no doubting our system of support for people with disabilities is changing, including the opportunities for folks after their education ends. Anyone can work in competitive employment if given the supports they specifically need, just like anyone can live in the community given the specific supports they need. The question really falls to our lawmakers and us as a society: How much support are we willing to offer people? There is a considerable cost (both in time of service and cost of service) to supporting a person individually and until that commitment is made, we will continue to just talk about what we believe. A person mush have choice in what they do and where they live, but to not offer the choice because we are scared of the “what if’s” doesn’t feel like advocacy.

  46. Janet Diehl says:

    My nephew can not even communicate with most people, he would not be able to get to work by himself, has no sense of danger to himself or others, has little sense of judgement of safety or appropreate social behavior and thus needs constant supervision. He also has many physical alments, including epilepsy. I am very glad that he is already living in a good group home and taken to a sheltered workshop where he knows the people and what he is to do and where the people know & understand my nephew. He is well past his 20’s, and often goes home to his mother’s for a few hours – that is as long as he can tolerate normal family life. God help other folk like my nephew, I hope they too have someone looking out for them ever hour of every day.

  47. Keenan Wellar says:

    First of all, sheltered workshops have been proven to be more of a barrier to transition than they are an asset or a support. This makes perfect sense when one considers that excluding people is clearly not the path to including them. It is not only a barrier for the individual, but for the community at large, since sheltered workshops serve to reinforce the “special people in special places doing special programs” assumption that continues to dominate public perception.

    What concerns me about this legislation however is that it continues to focus on the individual as being somehow responsible for ending up in segregation. What if the supports provided to them are not very good, and through no fault of their own they end up unemployed – why should they be labelled a failure and condemned into segregation? Shouldn’t we send the workers in the school/agency there instead.

    But leave that aside for a moment and let’s say that any given individual has had fantastic help with employment support but it hasn’t worked out – why is a sheltered workshop the answer? Why haven’t they received help over the previous five years to build a life that isn’t about employment *or else* a sheltered workshop? There are millions of people who do not have disabilities but do not have a job, we don’t send them off to a sheltered workshop.

    There is more to life than employment, and people should be helped to enjoy it (in addition to getting effective help with employment, if that is what they want). Sheltered workshops should be taken right off the menu. People without disabilities don’t get sent into segregation because they aren’t working. This practice must end.

  48. Sharon says:

    I haven’t read the bill but hope that it addresses the need for employers to step up and give opportunity to people with ‘different’ abilities instead of stating “we’ve tried those programs before, they don’t work”. With initial support/coaching, an individual can succeed in community placement. It may be different, but not impossible, for the employer to provide an individual with the chance to be a part of the workforce in places that they, and their families, shop and support daily. There are employment programs to prepare people with disabilities for community employment. Starting with an assessment that includes interests of the person, what their dream job might be, then realistic planning for job readiness which may include specific skills, including interpersonal, then practical experience in a smaller setting, maybe an internship to try different jobs, and finally job search assistance. Support after obtaining a job would be faded as the new employer and co workers become natural supports. It CAN be done, it just takes people working together to help people work together.

  49. Greg Ferrall says:

    I don’t think anyone objects to the idea that adults with disabilities should have an opportunity to work in competitive, integrated community employment. The fallacy in the movement is in believing that a large percentage of adults with disabilities can survive in the competitive market, particularly those with multiple and severe disabilities. It’s one thing to create a job for an adult but quite another to assist with his or her toileting, feeding or assisting with a feeding tube. Sheltered workshop programs have done an excellent job of meeting a variety of needs for a large number of persons with disabilities for many years. Short of abuse, neglect, or clear lack of attempt to move capable individuals into community settings, workshop programs are the right place for many persons with disabilities.

  50. tim bennett says:

    emily i agree with you sheltered workshops don’t pay minimum wage it’s time for goodwill industries and other non profit sheltered workshops to limit entry i worked for goodwill industries of central north carolina from may 5th to june 20th 1986 i was bored piece rate pay what a joke i assembled spindle adapters for 0.08 lousy cents after 34 days i quit the vocational rehabilitation counselor wanted me to work another 30 days i said i’m not interested 2 weeks they call me asked if i’m going back to goodwill industries i told her no 3 months later same question i said no

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