Where are the evaluations?

Shaun Bickley “an autistic person who organized a campaign to end subminimum wage in Seattle” turned down the choice to work in a sheltered workshop when he was younger while living in Texas.  It’s great that he had the choice and is employable – he currently works for The Arc of King County in Seattle, WA.

While Bickley flips a page that lists  “over 80 organizations that have signed on in support”  (see link). I am curious if any of them know the full story, have heard of evaluations that have been done in states which have eliminated special certificates or that people in Seattle lost work hours – due to this type of legislation.

There is more to the issue than the wage and the fact that these advocates do not understand or acknowledge that supported employment, while a wonderful opportunity, is costly to sustain.  This is clearly evident in the fact that their Fiscal Note states “No fiscal impact”.  How do they propose employing all these people in supported employment without a fiscal impact?

There needs to be a lot of answers here before moving forward with anymore legislation of this kind.

The following information is taken from Morningside’s Website 

How does Morningside’s Supported Employment Program Work?

After a careful assessment of an individual’s skills and vocational interests, a Morningside job developer will conduct a job search in the community, assisting prospective employers in the identification of appropriate jobs and tasks to meet the needs of their specific businesses. A comprehensive job analysis is conducted to ensure a good employer/employee match. An applicant is referred followed by a job interview, after which the final hiring decision is the employer’s.

How is Morningside Involved After the Placement?

Employment specialists, or job coaches, assist new employees with a comprehensive job orientation, followed by on-going, individualized training and assistance to promote satisfactory work performance on an as-needed basis. They may also provide job modification assistance to employers, disability awareness training for co-workers, or job retention services to the employee and business on a long term basis.

What Reasonable Accommodations will I be Expected to Make for my New Employee and What will They Cost?

The employment specialist may analyze job tasks, restructure how specific job tasks are completed or teach tasks differently to best fit employer/employee needs. Most accommodations cost nothing at all and, in most cases, the employment specialist’s time is free to the employer.

Who pays Morningside (and other agencies? According to the Fiscal note it appears there is no cost.

How can the fiscal note be ZERO?

“Bottom Dollars”, a documentary on sub-minimum wage and sheltered workshops produced by @rootedinrights and Disability Rights Washington, has a statement which tells the truth about the situation –

“If people are given the proper services and supports and proper assistive technology, the sky is the limit for many, many individuals”  – For some reason, this critical statement is not mentioned in any reference to the documentary or supported employment.

Supported employment offers wonderful opportunities to disabled employees and benefits to the employers and our community.  Unfortunately, just as “Bottom Dollars” states, the proper services and supports are needed.  This means FUNDS.  For some reason, advocates, legislators and community members forget about this cornerstone to supported employment  which ensures supported employment to be successful and sustainable.

Microsoft, has developed a “SE -Toolkit” and has a wonderful outlook regarding the benefits to all of hiring people with disabilities. The videos on the site have examples of some wonderful success stories and it is terrific to see disabled people working and enjoying their jobs in the communities.

The information below is from the Microsoft Supported Employment FAQ webpage

Who pays the Supported Employees and their coaches?

Employers do not pay a fee to the coaching agencies. Coaches work for employment coaching agencies, which are usually non-profits funded by government entities. In Washington, the primary government funders are the Department of Social and Health Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and county Divisions of Developmental Disabilities.
Supported Employees are paid by their employer. The expectation is that vendors will hire Supported Employees within existing labor budgets within the Real Estate and Facilities scope. Vendors hire Supported Employees for roles that they need to fill.

How do job seekers with I/DD find out about Supported Employment opportunities with Microsoft RE&F vendors?

When a vendor has a job opening for a Supported Employee, the program manager notifies the coaching agency partners. The agencies determine which individuals are best suited and qualified for the specific job opening, and assist those individuals with applying, interviewing, onboarding, and ongoing job coaching.
Candidates for employment should contact one of our partner agencies. See the earlier topic, “Who are the primary partners in the Microsoft RE&F Supported Employment Program” for more information, or download our employment agency list.

HB 1706 – Elimination of Special Certificates

Below is a copy of an email to sponsors of this bill that was heard today in the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.   This bill is being heard without an understanding of the full impact and pushed “as the right thing to do”.  I’m sorry, but we have already seen how policies driven by ideology with little regard to facts, evaluation and assessment of changes has contributed to our current and continued crisis in the supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
It’s time to stop the charades, work together and come to real, sustainable solutions that best benefit the most people.  HB 1706 is not one of those solutions.
Collaboration concept in word tag cloud

As a sponsor of HB 1706 I am writing you this email with information regarding the discrimination of this bill by denying the opportunity of any disabled person to work as an apprentice, learner or messenger.  By eliminating the special certificates for people with disabilities, the other jobs are also denied.  Apprenticeship, learners and messengers can be great jobs for people with certain disabilities and it’s shameful to deny those choices.

As stated in the documentary “Bottom Dollars” produced by Disability Rights Washington and Rooted in Rights  – “If people are given the proper services and supports and proper assistive technology, the sky is the limit for many, many individuals”  I truly believe this – unfortunately, HB 1706 does not address any of the issues of support – just the wage.  Do not pass HB 1706 until all the issues are addressed and planned as is recommended in research by national agencies.

Supported Employment is great – it can open up many opportunities for people.  It needs funding to be successful and this bill does not address the issue of supporting funds for job coaches, job development, job training or transition planning.  It only looks at eliminating the special certificates.  Eliminating special certificates without addressing the critical issue of funding supported employment/integrated employment for this population will result in a crisis.  This population is already involved in a crisis situation with lack of caregivers and supported living with many people stuck in hospitals with no place to go.  Passing this bill at this time is not in the best interest of anyone.

It is interesting to note that not one research report of any advocacy agency recommends immediate elimination of certificates.  A well planned and funded transition is needed for a stable and sustainable integrated supported employment opportunities.  There is nothing in this bill that addresses any issues regarding transition.  It has been stated that a rapid elimination would actually be detrimental to our population.

Elimination of special certificates without taking into consideration the other issues involved will only result in job loss.  It will not increase the employment opportunities nor will it mean that those with disabilities will now make a living wage. When a person is only able to work 10 hours a week, minimum wage will not allow them to be self-supporting.

In Seattle, the legislation caused people to lose hours at their jobs.  Yes, their wages increased but their hours decreased.  For some of these people their job was also their opportunity to be integrated in the community – with the loss of hours, their community integration opportunity decreased too. A question asked in today’s public hearing by Representative Mosbruker was regarding an evaluation of what has happened in places that have eliminated the special certificate.  This is a very critical question that also needs to be answered before moving forward.  There is information available on this for New Hampshire, Maine and some other states – I would be more than happy to provide links to you.

In Seattle, there were 8 people who were working under a Special Certificate – 6 at Ballard Locks were working 5 hours a day had their hours cut to 3 hours a day, the person at Ballard Lutheran had her hours cut from 15 hours a week to 12 hours a week and the person at Ballard Market was working 6 hours a week and did not have hours cut but the manager express concern about being able to hire employees with significant intellectual/developmental disabilities in the future.  It should be noted that none of these employees needed 1:1 job support for their jobs.

I did not hear anyone testify about the support needs for those involved in integrated employment or talk about the number of hours these employees may work a week or the coordination of supports (transportation, housing, personal needs support)  needed to be employed.  These are all critical issues that need discussion before a bill such as this is passed.

Again, as an example, my son who lives in Supported Living also has supported employment.  He works 9 hours a week at Lowe’s and makes $16.59 an hour.  This means that his gross wages are $597 per month.  He also receives SSI which is reduced due to his wages so overall his income is roughly $900.00.  He needs to pay rent, utilities, groceries and all living expenses from that $900.00.

The County (through DDA) pays the employment vendor about $2400.00 a month to provide the support to my son for his 1:1 job support.  What have you heard about the funding for these integrated jobs for people like my son who needs 1:1 support to be employed in an integrated community setting?  While the employer is paying the employee minimum wage, someone needs to pay the job coach or there is no job at all.

Please do not pass HB 1706 at this time.  Yes, fair and equitable wages are important but in order to have fair and equitable wages in an integrated setting we need to look at the whole picture.

At the risk of continued personal assaults from one of the people testifying today, I feel obligated to inform people of the consequences of taking such rash actions without a full understanding and acknowledgement of the various issues involved in coordination of supports. It was not a collaborative process at all with Shaun Bickley (he was co-chair of the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities) taking the helm and violating the First Amendment by censoring and blocking comments from constituents to the Seattle Commission and later writing libelous comments about others and most recently commiting fraud, conspiracy and interference with contractual relations with regards to my work as a registered nurse.  This is all in retaliation against me for trying to have accountability and transparency in the process of the elimination of special certificates in Seattle.

I would be more than happy to provide information on national research regarding the issue of special certificates and special wages, integrated and supported employment and transition planning to ensure sustainability and success.

Thank you for your concern and attention to this critical issue.  

Did he say what I think he said?

The response that I have gotten from many people who have listened to the abuse that the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities spewed at me after their last meeting (May 17, 2018) is “Did he say what I think he said?”

YES – Hear for yourself – if you are offended by this encounter (this was the first “in-person” conversation that I had with this person) please write to any or all of the following people or agencies.

It doesn’t matter if one is a volunteer or not, disabled or not – as a representative of a City and Community Commission, one needs to uphold the duties of the office.

Mayor Jenney Durkan photo

Seattle City Council May 2018

Contact City Council

Seattle Boards and Commission Home page

Contact Boards and Commissions

Seattle Office for Civil Rights

Contact Office for Civil rights

Seattle Office of Civil Rights Commissions

Contact Seattle Disability Commission

If you would like to read a history of the questions and concerns that were excluded from any discussion on the legislation which eliminated choice and alternatives for those with significant disabilities, here is the document sent to the Office of Civil Rights (per their request) to receive answers to.

Questions to PwD Commission that need to be answered

Next Post will discuss the issues of the Office of Labor Standards and comments received regarding the rule change in September 2017.

Seattle has rapid elimination of sub-minimum wage

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda – thank you for the concern you have for our community members with disabilities. While I understand this has just passed into law, I believe there was some very critical information that was left out, not addressed and misrepresented by members of the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities .

The first issue is that these certificates are not “general purpose” to allow any employer to pay a person less than the minimum wage just because that person has a disability. They were for specific employers for specific employees for specific jobs. Generally, they are used for people with complex and often intellectual disabilities. It is a fact that those with intellectual disabilities, just by the definition of the disability itself, may not be as productive as a person with a different type of disability – such as autism. Autism is NOT an intellectual disability but it is a developmental disability. This issue is one that the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities has failed to acknowledge and understand.

The second thing is that for people working in these jobs, they tend to work 10 hours or less a week and most often have a job coach to assist them in their job. The job coach may be 1:1 or only check in occasionally – depending on the support needs of the disabled person. The funding for the job coach is typically paid for through the Developmental Disabilities Administration through the counties. Without a job coach, many of these people would not be able to get and maintain employment.

One example of this is the issue of my son. He does work in a supported integrated employment setting within Seattle. He does earn a bit more than the minimum wage and works 9 hours a week with a 1:1 job coach. The vocational vendor agency is paid $2700 per month to provide the job coach for his 9 hours of work a week. If for some reason a job coach is sick or on vacation and they cannot get a sub, my son is not able to go to work that day.

For people like my son, they are not working at these jobs for their sole income and they all tend to live in poverty. They most likely receive SSI which will be reduced from the $750.00 to something less based on their earned income. Due to the earned wages my son makes, his SSI is reduced to $532.00. He then needs to pay rent, utilities, food, household necessities, clothes, healthcare supplies not covered by insurance, and other necessities of daily life out of his SSI and earned wages.

People like my son (who needs to have 1:1 supervision during all waking hours) are generally linked with several agencies, family members, friends (natural supports) a healthcare team, community members and paid support staff to navigate daily life. It is a collaborative web that can work very well – until someone tweaks one part without working with the rest of the team and it can then all fall apart.

For instance, my son lives in supported living with 3 other disabled young adults. Luckily, their agency does provide a reliable van for them to use but they need to coordinate transportation based on the residents’ schedules. They are the ones who transport my son back and forth to work each morning since my son needs 1:1 handoff from his support staff to his job coach – Access bus is not an option – nor is any type of public transportation.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities did little research on this issue and how it impacts the lives of those who work in these jobs. I have asked repeatedly for the research and the Commission has refused to provide it – but continues to refer to this non-existent research. I did provide the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities with links to a report from the National Council on Disabilities which had clear outlines for a transition from sub-minimum wage to integrated employment and their timeline was from 2-10 years. Not a rapid, sudden elimination of certificates.

I also provided another very useful resource from the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation which had very useful discussions and resources on how to encourage and create integrated work for those with significant intellectual disabilities. Again, this looked at a period of transition and planning for funding to be stable and sustainable for the required job skill building and training of job coaches.

I do not believe that either of these extremely useful and national resources were even discussed at a commission meeting because their decision had been made and any information from a person who did not agree totally with the proposed agenda by the Commission.   The Commission has stated many times that there was unanimous opinions regarding the elimination plan by disabled people and advocates denying the fact that there were many who had a different opinion.
Regarding other states who do not use certificates:

New Hampshire did not have any businesses using the certificates but updated their policies to officially end the practice if they were used. The minimum wage in New Hampshire just $7.25 an hour and disabled people can be paid less if part of an approved work training program.

According to the NH Developmental Services Employment Data Report – the average number of hours worked a week is 11 and the average weekly pay is $92.73. More than 50% of the jobs are 2-9 hours per week.

A case study of the transition from sheltered workshops to integrated employment of disabled people in Maine done by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management highlighted 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.

Alaska recently banned the subminimum wage. Robert Dinerstein, a law professor at American University and director of the schools’ Disability Rights Law Clinic believes that Alaska will be able to accomplish an integrated workforce by giving workers a job coach who goes to work with the person for the first month to help them “learn the ropes.” Evidently, this professor does not understand the fact that some people may need the 1:1 support to remain employed – it’s not a “learn the ropes” and then on their merry, independent way.

Maryland has a 4-year phase-out of “sheltered workshops” which they hope to have completed by 2020. The plan involves moving people from sheltered workshops to competitive integrated employment. Each individual making less than minimum wage will receive an individual plan for the phase-out.

According to the United States Department of Labor “Subminimum wages must be commensurate wage rates – based on the worker’s individual productivity, no matter how limited, in proportion to the wage and productivity of experienced workers who do not have disabilities performing essentially the same type, quality, and quantity of work in the geographic area from which the labor force of the community is drawn. ”

The documentary “Bottom Dollars” by Disability Rights Washington and Rooted in Rights states “If people are given the proper services and supports and proper assistive technology, the sky is the limit for many, many individuals.” This I believe to be true but there is a big IF and that included funding needs to provide supports and sustain them. Did the Commission for PwD look at these issues?

Please ask the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities about the research they have done and the transition plan they have developed for our citizens in Seattle.

Seattle Outlaws Subminimum Wage

Council votes to eliminate sub-minimum wage

Seattle bans lower wages