Saturday, April 19, 2014

Developmental disabilities and sheltered workshops: "free" to starve?

This April 2014 announcement portrays the end of supported employment for the cognitively impaired as a victory similar to the ADA’s benefit for the physically disabled … (excerpts and emphases mine):

Rhode Island Settles Case on Jobs for the Disabled -

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced a “landmark” agreement with the State of Rhode Island to free people with developmental disabilities from a decades-old system that kept them unjustly segregated in sheltered workshops and adult day programs, removed from the competitive workplace and the broader community.

The settlement, which addresses the civil rights of about 3,250 Rhode Island residents, also provides a road map to compliance for the 49 other states, federal officials said. They estimated that across the country, 450,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities while away their days in essentially cloistered environments…

… people with developmental disabilities and aspirations who spent years stuck in sheltered workshops that financially exploited them.

There was, for example, Steven Porcelli, 50, of North Providence. In a telephone interview before Tuesday’s announcement, he recalled graduating from high school, working briefly at a hardware store, and then being sent to a sheltered workshop run by a nonprofit company called Training Thru Placement.

For about $2 an hour, Mr. Porcelli assembled jewelry, packed medical supplies into boxes, grated cheese and stuffed peppers for an Italian food company. All along, he said, “I did want another job, because that’s what it was supposed to be: training through placement.”

“I was there for 30 years,” Mr. Porcelli added. “I was doing piecework most of the time, which I didn’t like too much.”

Jocelyn Samuels, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, cited Mr. Porcelli’s case, among others, in unveiling what she called the “landmark settlement” to address the “unnecessary segregation” of sheltered workshops and day facilities.

“We cannot wait another day to change,” Ms. Samuels said. “And we won’t.”

Under the agreement, Rhode Island — which federal officials praised for recognizing and embracing the need for reform — has 10 years to do the following to resolve violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act:

Help state residents with developmental disabilities obtain typical jobs in the community that pay at least the minimum wage and offer the maximum number of hours consistent with the employee’s abilities and preferences;

■ Provide support for nonwork activities in the mainstream, including community centers, libraries, and recreational and educational facilities;

■ Prepare high school-age students with developmental disabilities for competitive jobs in the community through internships and mentoring programs, among other efforts;

Redirect the “significant” public funds that are used to support segregated settings toward encouraging services in integrated settings.

… They determined that Rhode Island had “over relied” on segregated settings, to the exclusion of integrated alternatives. About 80 percent of the people with developmental disabilities who were receiving state services — about 2,700 people — were placed in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based programs.

In addition, only about 5 percent of the young people with developmental disabilities leaving secondary schools from 2010 to 2012 went on to jobs in integrated settings — even though many were capable of working in the competitive workplace.

Federal and state officials said they had received a positive response from businesses to the reforms. They said that the U.S. Business Leadership Network, a network of Fortune 500 companies, and Walgreens would sponsor a business summit meeting in Rhode Island in June to explore ways to expand the training and employment of people with development disabilities.

Ms. Samuels explained that those employed in sheltered workshops would be exposed to other opportunities, but would be allowed to remain in the workshops if that is their preference. “We are not shutting them down,” she said.

Mr. Porcelli, though, has moved on to a new job, doing office work and some computer training at Automated Business Solutions, a small business in Warwick. He said he enjoyed being in competitive employment because, he said, “I feel more accomplished.”

What a pile of horse shit.

The money that was spent on sheltered workshops is to be redirected to “encouraging” services, and “exposing” opportunities - in a world where most low cognition jobs have vanished to automation and globalization - and they aren’t coming back.

Will the cognitively impaired get special positions in the long, long lines for minimum wage high stress Walmart jobs? How well will that be received? Will ADA style lawsuits mandate the restoration of mail rooms, human staffed factories, filing cabinets and gas station attendants?

Oh - and the workshops “won’t be shut down” after the funding is “redirected”? I have no words for that.

This is the second coming of emptying psychiatric institutions — and dumping schizophrenics to die on the streets.

Yes, we need more employment options and vastly better transition and lifelong learning programs — but closing sheltered workshops for the cognitively disabled is not the answer.

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