Commission for PwD Discriminates against those with IDD

https://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=5215197&GUID=132D578C-0E3D-4B68-A1B2-FDCB1FFA841F

Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities – Accountability to the Community

Last week, Mayor Jenny Durkan signed into law that Seattle will no longer issues special certificates to allow specific employers to hire specific employees to do a specific job for a wage that may be less than minimum wage.  These certificates typically were used by employers as an accommodation to allow them to hire people with significant disabilities that interfere with their ability to be as productive as a non-disabled peer.

For the people who worked under these certificates the job is much more than a wage to them.  The people involved typically work 2-25 hours a week, also received SSI cash benefits (which are then reduced somewhat with the earned wages  – see formula for this reduction below) and other supports in the community and home to assist them in activities of daily living and community integration.

This legislation was based on lies propagated by the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.  The information they used to push this harmful agenda was also a series of half-truths with censorship of concerns leading this group to say there was unanimous agreement among disabled people .

It is true that this request for information sent out from the Office of Labor Standards generated the most response they have received on any request.  But the information shared by the Commission took this a bit further into an outright lie.

The proposal to kill the exemption has generated “the largest amount of discussion the Disability Commission has ever received on a topic,” according to the letter. Subminimum wage is overwhelmingly opposed by workers with disabilities.” Commissioner Shaun Bickley says, he’s unaware of public opposition to the rule change

(From Seattle Weekly, August 18, 2017)

While the co-chair tends to lies,  Karina Bull, Policy Manager for Seattle Office of Labor Standards, reports a different account in this Housing, Health, Energy and Worker’s Rights Committee meeting dated March 29, 2018, She states “we had our  most robust rule making processes.  We received more comments for this change than we have for any other – we had almost 70 people respond with a slight preference for prohibiting the practice of sub-minimum wage for people with a disability. 

“Thank you for writing Councilmember Herbold regarding the subminimum wage issue. The Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities (PwD) conducted a four-month review of Seattle’s policy and practice as well as held a public comment session to hear from the community and organizations. Additionally, they reached out to all the businesses that currently utilize the subminimum wage. The PwD Commission received no comment opposing the elimination of the subminimum wage certificates. Some people contacted Councilmember Herbold’s office concerned that people need the subminimum wage to get jobs.  Yet, no people with disabilities contacted Councilmember Herbold’s office to say so.  Since the PwD Commission, through their individual lived experiences, can speak to these issues best, Councilmember Herbold asked that I share with you excerpts from the PwD Commission letter that outlines several specific points as evidence against these concerns specifically and opposing the subminimum wage as a policy.  ”  (from correspondence with Alex Clardy,  Legislative Assistant to Councilmember Lisa Herbold)

Of note, the PwD Commission just copied/pasted part of a report from the APSE Advancing Employment Connecting People  (The Association of People Supporting Employment First) without understanding the background and other recommendations in the bullet points shared.

The Commission for PwD also lied about the numbers of people involved and their wages.   The total lack of understanding of what these jobs mean to the people actually involved is an outright act of discrimination.

The Commission  refuses to provide answers to critical questions with this legislation and the supposed research that was done.  Given that there was a transition plan for the enactment of the minimum wage law in Seattle and all the research that I have read on this issue (including the 3 reports the Commission used as their research) reports there needs to be a well planned and funded transition plan in place prior to elimination of special certificates.  Where is the transition plan and phase in of this legislation?  It appears that was not considered and there were immediate changes made which were harmful to those involved.

Unfortunately, again in an act of discrimination, there has been an elimination of these special certificates with no transition plan (at least that I have been aware even given my multiple requests for information on this issue).  The Commission’s responses to me on this issue accuse me of lying and spreading false information and publishing personal attacks and libel.

The interactions I have had with the Commission have been most frustrating.  Below are some of the first comments and interactions I had with the Commission my attempts to learn about the legislation.  I had been blocked from the Commission for PwD Facebook page so shared this to my personal page to which a Commissioner made these comments.

Cheryl Felak shared a post.

It needs to be noted that not ONE person on this commission has an intellectual and developmental disability and they do not understand the issues involved with the need for these certificates or that we all need to have choice and these certificates provide some choice for those who would be unable to work if they did not exist.

Another article about the Commission’s work in ending subminimum wage in Seattle.

About this article

 

Some workers now make 36 cents an hour, according to the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities.
SEATTLEWEEKLY.COM
Maura Wachsberger
Maura Wachsberger Out of the 120 people who lost their jobs at my agency, 3 have jobs. All are part time and 2 out of the 3 are 1 hour a month. People are so angry and upset that there is no option for them to work. Makes me furious! It’s so obvious that it’s ridiculous!!!!! Keep options open!!!
Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak I plan on going to their next meeting – probably will get shouted down because I’m a guardian and according to this group do not speak for my son.

Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities
Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities Commission meetings are open to the public. Members of the public get 2 minutes for comment. You are welcome to attend, but I would appreciate you not spreading misinformation about the Commission as there are multiple members with intellectual and developmental disabilities even if you don’t like what we have to say.
Maura Wachsberger
Maura Wachsberger Sounds like you don’t like what Cheryl has to say.
Bonnie Sullivan
Bonnie Sullivan That’s a two-way street. Since she knows her son best she should be respected for that knowledge.
Carol Jackson Fenske
Carol Jackson Fenske …so why was she blocked from your comments section for talking about her son?
Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak since I am not able to make comments on the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities Facebook page or reply to the comment you made on my page, I would like to know who you are who is responding to me. I’m not spreading misinformation, I have taken information from your own website – if it is wrong, please correct it.
Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley I’m not sure why you can’t respond when you can share from the page but okay. You’ve already been told that multiple members have an I/DD. I told you I did (I don’t see myself in that wall of text). Not everyone on the Commission is verbal. Multiple people with ID/IDD submitted testimony on this issue. Just because you don’t like what we have to say doesn’t mean it’s okay to pretend we’re not I/DD.

Post what you like, I would just appreciate you not spreading misinformation especially when disabled advocates have told you otherwise.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley Thank you for your response. I’m sorry but the testimonies are not on the website and the meeting minutes state that business and families declined testimony. There is quite a bit of misinformation that is being shared by this committee and when people who have questions about some of these issues are blocked from comments it perpetuates the spread of the false information.

Also, the tone of your writing is very disrespectful and undiplomatic. Accusing a guardian of not understanding the issues involved of living with a disability and denying the guardian the ability to perform their court appointed and legal responsibility is discrimination against those who have chosen to have a guardian.

Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley Declined public testimony. We still talked to them. OLS has talked to them. No one is objecting except people like you who aren’t impacted by it.

If I need a plumber, I’m going to talk to someone who understands the issue, not someone who lives with aplumber. If I want to hear about women’s health experiences I’m not going call and center husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. Living around DD person is not interchangeable with BEING a DD person and I’m sorry if this is the first time anyone’s told you that.

And if I can level with you, suggesting you’re going to go to a meeting to shout down disabled people is pretty scary. Just because you can observe or make comment doesn’t mean you have a right to shout at people, to disrupt the meeting or to intimidate people.

Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley I’m not particularly interested in debating whether you subsume your child’s personhood here or anywhere else. If you want to see the letter the Commission wrote to the City Council dated June 21 it should be on the FB page. You’re free to submit comment on this or something else. I just ask that you not spread misinformation about people and that you not come to the meeting with the intention of shouting people down. Several of us have been in institutional/segregated settings or experienced violence at the hands of caregivers, so that kind of tone is an unwelcome abuse of power.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley Again, you have totally misinterpreted what I said – I never said that I would shout but that I would be shouted down – big difference.

Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley interesting that you assume that I am not impacted by this recommendation. You have made many assumptions and I would suggest that you listen and have a conversation with others who may have a different perspective than your view. There are ways to work together.
Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley You are not impacted. Every worker and family member who will be impacted by this change has been talked to already. I know their names, you are not one of them. At best this is a hypothetical option you wanted for someone else, but that’s not the same as being paid subminimum wage or even supporting a family member who is.

I appreciate the clarification re: shouting. Nobody needs to shout, there hasn’t been any shouting yet.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley I’m sorry that you have many misunderstandings regarding this issue and who it will impact – now or in the future. I am very interesting in reading the studies and testimonies of those who have submitted them. Are they referenced on the website too.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Shaun Bickley the issue is much more complex than the minimum wage aspect and the impacts of such an elimination of choice will be far reaching. I would urge a more thorough investigation and study of the topic.

Have you or other commissioners looked at an overall increase in costs that may result from an increased need for more intense employment supports or other opportunities to help those with IDD interact and be involved in their communities?

Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley Cheryl Felak I will email you information if you’d like to provide it. However:

1) You still have a post up claiming that no one on the Commission has an I/DD when you’ve been told otherwise. That is lying.
2) It’s incredibly creepy that you’ve put up a public post listing out everyone on the Commission and whether or not you think they’re actually disabled. This is bordering on stalking behavior.

It’s kind of ironic because by virtue of BEING on a Commission you’ve automatically assumed that everyone there is Not Like Your Child, but actually listing out and evaluating non-elected, unpaid disabled volunteers is super sleazy.

Cheryl Felak

Cheryl Felak Which of the people on the commission have an intellectual and developmental disability? I see other disabilities but none that are intellectual and developmental. It’s interesting that the website gives these bios of the people – I was curious who made up the commission and so I read what was on the website. If it is incorrect than take it up with whoever from the commission posted the incorrect information.

I do not recall my ever giving an opinion if I thought the people on the commission had a disability or not – that is something that you have imagined. I did say that not ONE has an intellectual and developmental disability and I believe that is the case.

Shaun Bickley
Shaun Bickley It’s none of your business. I told you I’m not going to give you people’s diagnosis information. I am. Multiple others are. It’s fair to ask if anyone has an I/DD but it’s not appropriate to expect detailed personal information.
Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak So no one has IDD – I’m sorry but having a diagnosis of autism is not the same as intellectual/developmental disability. I would think that you would be aware of that. Maybe you are not aware of what an intellectual/developmental disability is if you believe that the people listed on the website have this combined disability.
 
Shaun Bickley

Shaun Bickley Autism is a developmental disability. Maybe a trip down wikipedia would be helpful to your level of information.

Yes, several people have both intellectual and developmental disabilities. The fact that you don’t like what we have to say doesn’t change that. Your behavior is disgusting, if you do feel the need to come please limit your interaction with me to something professional instead of screeching about what you think people’s disabilities are and are not.

Cheryl Felak
Cheryl Felak I am fully aware that autism is a developmental disability – as is cerebral palsy and other disabilities. But I have a hard time believing that people with advanced college degrees have an intellectual disability.
Carol Jackson Fenske

Carol Jackson Fenske Shaun Bickley But why, why are you quoted in the Seattle Weekly as having had NO negative response to your initiative? Looks/sounds like misrepresentation to me. Perhaps you don’t really know what it’s like to spend 20-30 years of your life totally focused on a loved one with severe disabilities, advocating every single day for what seems to make them happy? Maybe that loved one is able to communicate, but not to strangers, and not in a way that would be understandable to a stranger. Cut us a little slack here, really.

Maura Wachsberger I have never seen such unprofessional responses from someone who represents a government agency. At least in NY they pretend to listen to us before they ignore us. It’s not people first, it’s money first and closing this option for people who truly need it will save money. Terrible!

 

https://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=5215197&GUID=132D578C-0E3D-4B68-A1B2-FDCB1FFA841F

Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities – Accountability to the Community

“Things I Mean to Know” (Sheltered Workshops and Supported Employment)

I was recently listening to the Podcast “This American Life” and was struck by the very question that I keep asking of advocates with regards to intellectual disabilities.   We are told over and over again that “evidence shows” yet have these advocates really looked at the evidence or are they just taking on faith what they have heard and have believed it?

Questions asked are “how do we know it’s true?”, “what is the proof of it?” “how much have you accepted without evidence?”

“Sometimes there’s a thing that you think you know, even though, right in front of you, staring you in the face, is clear evidence to the contrary.”  There are also the issues of denial  and deceit at play when censorship of opinions and experiences are practiced.

The most recent issue with lack of evidence is in the recommendation of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities (PwD Commission) to immediately eliminate the special certificates for employees with disabilities who would earn a sub-minimum wage.  Supposedly, the commission did 4 months of “intensive research” but they have not been able to provide any documentation of their research other than  opinion pieces, articles that actually oppose rapid elimination of the certificates or outdated research.  (Below this post are links to the documents the PwD Commission provided as their research into the issues of sub-minimum wage).  They have not been able to address the issues I have asked with regards to how this recommendation will affect other aspects of the people’s lives.  Apparently,  from the answer I received, the other aspects are irrelevant in this decision.

I wrote a letter to the Office of Labor Standards with my concerns about the recommendation and then again about the lack of evidence that was provided by the PwD Commission in making this recommendation (  letter to Ms. Bull in Office of Labor Standards regarding sub-minimum wage August 2017, non-evidence letter to K. Bull of OLS – November 2017)

One position paper submitted by APSE was used as evidence.  It is very interesting that in reading this position paper and looking up the citations,  the so-called evidence is not there.   They seem totally unaware of the significant limitations written by the author (Cimera) and only use part of the conclusion as the evidence.   (APSE is the Association of People Supporting Employment First –  Subminimum Wage Research Documents from PwD Commission)

Need to keep the findings in context:

  1. Did employee begin work immediately upon enrollment (tends to occur in sheltered workshops) or was there a long process to being employed (more likely in community employment)?
  2. The number of hours worked in each setting is unknown. Sheltered workshop employees by be “on the job” of physically present for 40 hours a week, there may be hours of down time when the employee is not actually working.  Also, by definition, sheltered workshops are continually staffed (this also helps with supports during “down time”)
  3. Community supported employees may not need (or may need) job coaches on site with them and therefore the costs are not influenced as much by the hours worked. Not knowing how many hours were worked and what percentage of those hours was staffed by a job coach, Given the number of hours worked by the employees and the amount of job support needed is unknown there is no possible way to make a comparison of the cumulative cost to that of a sheltered workshop.
  4. There is the issue of “skimming” – that is that even though the participants in this study were classified as having the same level of disability (“most significant”) there is no assurance that the level of limitations was identical.
  5. Given that it is impossible to quantify every variable that could affect cost-effectiveness, let alone find sets of supported and sheltered employees who have identical abilities, every study that attempts to compared sheltered and supported employees might be comparing apples and oranges” (Cimera, 2007)

My opinion is that both options are needed to best serve our population of people with disabilities and more specifically people with profound disabilities including intellectual disabiltiies.  There are pros and cons to each scenario and it needs to be individualized to the person as to which would be the best option.  This is what PERSON CENTERED PLANNING is about.

This is an issue that is happening all across the nation but there is no actual evidence or reliable research which supports the policies that are making sweeping changes to people’s lives.  When reviewing studies, reports and research, it is extremely important to consider the limitations in that study, the demographics and regional differences and the types of jobs that people are employed in.

Yes, there may be problems with the oversight and management of employement (as can be read about in this article – Segregated and exploited article) under the special certificates but that means we need to correct those problems so the system works as intended.  It does not mean to suddenly change to a different type of program or system that has not been documented to provide any better outcomes for a specific population.  Again, this is where is it critcally important to read through the studies and understand the limitations.  The conclusions mean nothing without understanding the limitations.

My questions to the Seattle Commssion for People with Disabilities regarding the recommendation to make a rapid elimination of the special certificates and the answer I received, indicate to me that this commission does not understand the full impact this recommendation will make in the lives.

My hope is that this commission does invite and pay attention to people with intellectual disabilities and their support circles.  It is critical to involve the people who will be affected by the change.  Remember “Nothing About Us, Without Us” 

 

References:

Akkerman, A., Janssen, C. G., Kef, S., & Meininger, H. P. (2016). Job Satisfaction of People With Intellectual Disabilities in Integrated and Sheltered Employment: An Exploration of the Literature. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 13(3), 205-216. doi:10.1111/jppi.12168
Boyd, J. M., & Davis, C. (2016). When good is no longer good enough: Transitioning to greatness. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 44(3), 279-285. doi:10.3233/jvr-160798
Cimera, R. E. (2007). The Cumulative Cost-Effectiveness of Supported and Sheltered Employees With Mental Retardation. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 32(4), 247-252. doi:10.2511/rpsd.32.4.247
Cimera, R. E. (2010). Supported Employment’s Cost-Efficiency to Taxpayers: 2002 to 2007. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 34(2), 13-20. doi:10.2511/rpsd.34.2.13
Cimera, R. E. (2016). A comparison of the cost-ineffectiveness of supported employment versus sheltered work services by state and demographics of program participants. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 45(3), 281-294. doi:10.3233/jvr-160829
Cimera, R. E., Avellone, L., & Feldman-Sparber, C. (2015). An investigation of the outcomes achieved by individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 43(2), 129-135. doi:10.3233/jvr-150762
Cimera. (n.d.). The percentage of supported employees with significant disabilities who would earn more in sheltered workshops.