Reading the news today that Alaska has banned sub-minimum wage and the kudos of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities about this makes me think that these folks have magical or wishful thinking. The illogicality of these decisions would be amusing if they were not so devastating for people and so consequently, I get very angry rather than laugh.
Robert Dinerstein, a law professor at American University and director of the school’s Disability Rights Law Clinic is quoted as saying “One approach has been to give workers a job coach, who goes to work with them during their first month on the job and helps them learn the ropes.” I’m curious what will happen to those who need to have 1:1 support in order to be employed – do they just get to work for that one month and then lose their job?
Clearly Dinerstein has no clue about the level of supports that many who do work in sheltered workshop or those who work under a sub-minimum wage certificate need.
I have been at odds with the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities over their recommendation that the sub-minimum wage be banned in Seattle. I asked several times to see the research that they claimed they did regarding sub-minimum wage and finally I was given their “research” – some reports and a couple of letters – non that were specific to the issues in Seattle. In fact, the information in the reports was very clear that in undertaking the elimination of sub-minimum wage there needs to be a transition plan in place and the transition needs to take place over several years, maybe 10 or more in some instances. It is embarrassing as a citizen of this city that such major decisions can be made without evidence based research and opportunities for those affected to provide their input. What happened to “Person Centered Planning” and “Nothing about us, without us?” It appears they don’t matter to the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.
There are multiple reports and research with evidence based practices that can help to make a transition from sheltered workshop or sub-minimum wage to supported employment for those who chose this. This option is not for everyone and can be very expensive and requires collaboration with many involved entities.
New Hampshire seems to be doing quite a bit of research and work to improve supported employment for residents. There was a comprehensive plan on evidence based supported employment and a new, transparent data collection process. There are reports issued every 6 months – this is the report for December 2016
Researchers from George Washington University did a case study of the transition from sheltered workshops to integrated employment in Maine. To more fully understand the needed supports and the experiences of those involved, this report is very informative and does highlight the fact that when people leave the sheltered workshop, many work fewer hours per week and make less money than if they remained in the sheltered workshop.
I do not support closure of sheltered workshops nor elimination of sub-minimum wage jobs that are allowed under the 14c certificates. In addition to providing job support, working in a sheltered workshop can provide much more to the employee to enhance their quality of life and provide meaningful opportunities than many would be able to experience in an integrated supported employment setting.
We need to protect choice and opportunities together with person centered planning.