Feds Take Aim At Sheltered Workshops
The Obama administration is proposing new regulations that would sharply limit people with disabilities from entering employment situations where they earn less than minimum wage.
The U.S. Department of Education is unveiling a draft rule this week designed to encourage competitive employment for most people with disabilities, largely through modifications to the Vocational Rehabilitation program.
The proposal comes less than a year after the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was signed into law mandating the changes.
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With the rule, the administration is placing a heightened emphasis on competitive integrated employment. Unpaid work would no longer qualify as a potential employment outcome in Vocational Rehabilitation plans and “economic self-sufficiency” must be among the criteria considered in helping individuals with disabilities establish goals.
“Individuals with disabilities, with appropriate supports and services, are able to achieve the same kinds of competitive integrated employment as non-disabled individuals,” the rule indicates.
States and schools would be barred from establishing agreements with any entity to employ people with disabilities at less than minimum wage under the proposal.
What’s more, those with disabilities age 24 and younger would be prohibited from working for subminimum wage unless they first receive pre-employment transition services at school and are provided “meaningful opportunities” to achieve competitive integrated employment. Meanwhile, anyone who is employed for less than minimum wage must regularly receive career-counseling services.
The rule would also require the Vocational Rehabilitation program to increase the share of funding set aside for helping people with the most significant disabilities participate in supported employment and would allow such services to be provided for up to four years.
Dedicated funding must also be earmarked under the plan to provide job exploration and similar services to individuals with disabilities in the early stages of transition.
“With the addition of these early pre-employment transition services, the VR program can be characterized as providing a continuum of VR services, especially for students and youth with disabilities,” the rule states.
The proposed rule is expected to be published Thursday in the Federal Register and will be open for public comment for 60 days.