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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Employment of the Disabled

Yesterday, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) issued a report saying that federally-funded programs are moving people with disabilities into sheltered workshops instead of opening meaningful employment opportunities.
“There is a total disconnect between what governments say they want to accomplish in terms of employment for people with disabilities and how they are actually spending taxpayer dollars,” said Curt Decker, NDRN executive director.
The report, Beyond Segregated and Exploited is a follow up to a report released last year that examined the issue of segregating working people with disabilities in sheltered workshops and the use of the subminimum wage to exploit their disability for the financial gain of employers. The new report is an update on progress to end those practices and move toward a system that encourages integrated employment options that pay competitive wages.
This report also provides additional insight into the complex and confusing system that pumps millions of dollars into sheltered work despite good national public policy meant to encourage integration and competitive employment. The report follows money designated to be spent on integrated employment as it winds its way from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to the states, state agencies, and finally into sheltered workshops.
A media advisory from the US Labor Department:
Three states — Iowa, Oregon and Tennessee — will receive the first round of grants through the program to assist with planning, policy development and capacity building. In addition to receiving technical assistance from national experts in employment of people with significant disabilities, they will receive mentoring from officials in the state of Washington, which also will receive a grant to mentor the selected states. "Employment First" aims to promote the development of state policies so that integrated employment is the first option of service for individuals with significant disabilities. Integrated employment refers to jobs held by people with disabilities in typical workplace settings in which the majority of individuals employed do not have disabilities, those with disabilities earn at least the minimum wage and they are paid directly by the employer.