Shame on DRW (Disability Rights Washington)

AS an advocate for our community members with developmental and intellectual disabilities with the highest support needs, I have been thoroughly ashamed and disappointed in the position of Disability Rights Washington (DRW).  DRW is supposed to be the protection and advocacy agency for these very citizens yet I see they are actually doing much harm to this population which has the greatest need.

DRW operates a blog entitled DisAbility Rights Galaxy.  One would think that they would welcome comments but I believe they only welcome comments which they find agree totally with what they have written.  I find it interesting that Mark Stroh, the editor, refers to the following rule as to why my comment will not be posted:

Comments we know or suspect to be inaccurate which are presented as factual. We will error on the side of caution here. As an unknown wise person once said, you are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts. However, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information in the comment section and expressly disclaim any liability for any information posted, or websites linked, to here.

as a reason that posts that I have written will  not be allowed and sit in limbo of “awaiting moderation” forever.  I think what he means to say is “our opinions are facts and therefore if anyone questions them they are only stating their opinion which is not fact since it does not agree with our “facts.”

The most recent issue of conern is that regarding “Sheltered workshops”  I have copied and pasted the original posting from Disability Rights Galaxy and my comment which is still in moderation and will not be posted.

Report: Sheltered workshops “exploit” people with disabiliites (sic)

Andy Jones | April 8, 2012

The National Disability Rights Network released a new report April 3 detailing how federal funding priorities entice states to funnel people with disabilities into sheltered workshop programs that segregate them from the regular workforce.

Opportunity Ahead Road Sign

People with disabilities want inclusive jobs

The report, titled “Beyond Segregated and Exploited,” is an update on ascathing report, released by NDRN in January 2011, that called for an end to subminimum wages and poor working conditions for people with disabilities.

“What we found was a system that does not provide truly meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities and in many instances exploits theirdisability for the financial gain of employers,” said NDRN executive director Curt Decker in the most recent report. “We found a system that traps these workers in endless “training” programs that prepare them for nothing and often leaves them impoverished. Worse, federal laws and programs as well as many provider organizations within the disability service system help facilitate this travesty.”

States receive money for sheltered workshops, separate work programs meant to provide employment for people with disabilities, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Rehabilitative Services Administration. However, these programs are not balanced with funding for programs to assist individuals with transitioning into the workforce.

For example, in Ohio, where 97 percent of the state’s disability employment funding is directed toward sheltered workshop programs, more than 5,200 workers are earning an average of $1 an hour. As detailed in a series of articles by the Columbus Dispatch, these programs receive almost no oversight. Despite havimg the largest number of individuals employed in sheltered workshops nationwide, the state’s 40 percent poverty rate for people with disabilities is among the nation’s highest.

“Despite CMS’ and RSA’s expressed preference for integrated employment, the heavy flow of Medicaid dollars spent on prevocational services and RSA’s policy allowing workers to get those services in sheltered settings does not support the call for community-based employment,” the report states.

Federal law allows sheltered workshops to employ pay individuals less than the minimum wage under a Great Depression era law designed to bolster employment for people with disabilities.

The report provides an overview of a number of efforts by Protection & Advocacy organizations around the country to improve conditions and opportunities for people in sheltered workshops, including a class action lawsuit filed in January by Disability Rights Oregon which argues that Oregon’s system of sheltered workshops violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily segregating people with disabilities.

The report calls for an end to federal and state funding to sheltered workshops that segregate people with disabilities from the workforce, the creation of new tax incentives for employers to hire people with disabilities and increased labor protections and enforcement.

Posted April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

It is true that Sheltered Workshops do not train people for “truly meaningful employment” and there may be people who work or spend time in these facilities who could benefit from other opportunities. I fully support employment for people with developmental disabilities but there are also many misconceptions about sheltered workshops which advocates publicize which simply are not true.

There are benefits to sheltered workshops and they should not be banished. Maybe if the name was changed to something else and the pretense of “training” for another job was removed, they might be better accepted by some disability advocates.

Regarding the pay – most of these workshops do not pay by the hour – they pay by piece work. If a person decides to not work but socialize all day – they won’t get paid for the “work” because they are not working. Yet, if they sit and do some work for awhile, get some things done, take a social break for a couple of hours then do some more work, they will get paid for the work they have done.

For many, the workshops provide not only employment but a pattern to their day, personal support, socialization, community involvement and more. If this is taken away without a replacement for these supports and relationships what are the people left with?

We are finding this every day with more and more supports being taken away. Many are now left with nothing. There are few day programs and if people are able to find a supported employment situation that time is only for a few hours a week. Who supports the person for the remaining hours?

With the turnover rate about 40% for caregivers in supported living homes, these people will then be left at home – that means more people to care for in their homes and fewer caregivers to care for them.

I’m sorry but for me that spells disaster.

The letter below is the first letter that I sent to inquire about the state of limbo.  I did not receive a response.  Today, when I again emailed Mr. Stroh, he sent me the rules and highlighted the informaion above as the reason that my comment will not be allowed.

To: mstroh@dr-wa.org
Subject: Disability Galaxy posting
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2012 18:15:13 -0700

Dear Mr. Stroh,

I’m curious about the timeline for having a reply to a posting moderated?  I posted the message below on April 11, 2012 and it is still “awaiting moderation.”  This is not the first time that a message that I have written to clarify some issue has been in this state of limbo for an extended period of time.

I understand that my letter does not necessarily support the posting on Disability Galaxy but I do believe that it is in the best interest of all to read other opinions about the issues.  Without a full understanding of how these issues affect our families and loved ones, how are people going to be fully informed.

Thank you very much,

 

I would love to know what Mr. Stroh finds so offensive or inaccurate in my comment.  Of course I do not believe that a sheltered workshop is the best place and they do not train workers for other jobs.  Yet, I do believe that sheltered workshops serve a purpose.  Just ask families of people with very high support needs – the people who now have no meaningful activities or structure to their day – ask them what they think are benefits of sheltered workshops.  DRW may be surprised but one would never know because these opinions are never allowed to be shared since they do not agree with the “facts” of DRW.

My response this morning to Mr. Stroh:

Thank you.  This is the right of your agency but I find that the editorializing that is done is harmful to those who DRW claims to advocate for.  This is a very sad state of affairs.  My posting is not inaccurate but it does not agree with your opinion and since this site is yours, you are welcome to post your opinion as fact but then do not allow others to question it.  This is not democracy.

I’m so sorry that your agency which is supposed to be the P&A agency for our vulnerable citizens is not living up to the job.

This is an example of the divisive advocacy and silencing of those who are very involved and know what it’s like in the “trenches”. We are not respected or valued for our opinions, insights and concerns. The very concerns which Olmstead upholds.   If these agencies are there to be the protection and advocacy agencies one would hope that they uphold the 1999 US Supreme Court Decision Olmstead which clearly states the individual has choices.  These choices are being taken away by those who believe their OPINION is fact.

It might be wise for Mr. Stroh to go back and read the Olmstead decision.  He may be enlightened by what it actually says.

Again, I will repeat my message to Mr. Stroh – I’m sorry but for me that spells disaster.

3 comments on “Shame on DRW (Disability Rights Washington)

  1. […] Mark Stroh – Executive Director of Disability Right Washington  […]

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  2. Kris says:

    I also think this is a great disservice to many of those “employed” at sheltered workshops. I have a high functioning son who worked several months at one of these places. Yes, they pay piecework. However, it is all done assembly line style, so you can only make as much as the slowest person on that line. Due to the great range of disabilities, this setup does not allow the higher functioning to be able to earn a better wage than the lowest functioning, as it may in a regular factory setting. Working six hours per day for two months, he earned about $40 in total before quitting in anger and frustration. He may have disabilities, but he knows when he’s being taken advantage of! These places get government money and provide services to other businesses in the community, allowing all to rake in the money except for the actual workers. Gosh, if they can pay the disabled workers less than $.50 an hour an hour and charge the other business $8 an hour (for an example) based off how long they expect it to take to complete the job (yes, they do have deadlines), then it’s a win-win for all except the disabled workers. While i want my son to be employed, he was not learning useful job skills and had no motivation, only anger, over putting in all that time for very little compensation. This should NOT be legal.

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    • Clancy says:

      While the USDOL does not disallow assembly lines they do require that those persons engaged on the line should have the equivalent production capacities as everyone else on that line. The USDOL may want to pay a visit to this facility to determine if any there are any irregularities. Re workshops in general it is a shame that Mr. Stroh should paint a picture of all workshops as he describes. Like any business there are always a few bad apples in the lot; but this guy ought to get off his white horse and listen to what those whom support workshops, the good ones have to say. Maybe he should should even visit some. There are those in these workshops, many parents say who would be taken advantage of in a regular outside job. Also, they do make friends, socialize after work and love what they do. Anything can be improved upon but to dismantle workshops in MHO is not right. You may in the process dismantle many lives in the process.

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