A recent federal ruling aims to help find jobs for people with developmental disabilities, but some Wisconsin families are worried about how it will be implemented.
The decision involves working conditions for people who have cognitive disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome. Some may have trouble reading, counting money or being in large groups, which leaves them with limited options.
Often they end up employed at so-called "sheltered workshops," where they perform basic tasks but are separated from nondisabled workers — in part so they can get needed services or be in stress-free surroundings.
The landscape shifted in 1999, when the U.S. Supreme Court said people with disabilities should be given every chance to work and live in integrated settings, where they're surrounded by non-disabled people as much as possible.
The ruling drew renewed attention in January when the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, finalized instructions on how to comply with the decision. The agency also gave states five years to develop transition plans for compliance.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is inviting public comment through Sept. 2, before it submits its transition plan to CMS on Oct. 2.
Some parents and guardians of those with disabilities worry about what will happen if sheltered workshops are disallowed. They acknowledge the federal decision is well-intentioned but worry that lower-functioning individuals who lose that option could be left with no alternatives at all.