Sheltered Work

Reprinted from PN June 2012

The nonprofit National Disability Rights Network says government funding isn’t doing what it should to integrate people with disabilities into the workplace.

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A report released by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) in April outlines how federal funding is being used to shuttle people with disabilities into sheltered workshops.

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

Curt Decker, NDRN executive director, says the idea of integrated employment is admirable, but falls short in practice. Decker says the “majority of money” designated for that idea goes to groups that isolate people with disabilities.

“Worse, our investigations over the past year concluded most of these facilities do not teach marketable skills or prepare workers for any type of meaningful work outside of the sheltered workshop,” Decker adds. “Instead, they trap workers in endless ‘training’ programs that pay little if anything, leaving the ‘trainee’ impoverished.”

The report calls for:

-         Ending segregated employment and the subminimum wage by restricting all federal and state money that is spent on employers who segregate employees with disabilities from the general work force

-         Strengthening current and creating new tax incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities in integrated workplaces at comparable wages

-         Increasing labor protections and enforcement of existing law

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