Category sheltered workshops

Sub-Minimum Wage Battle Heating Up

The continuing controversy regarding using sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities (using special worker certificates under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act) rages on. Use of this provision since 1938 has led to far too many examples of exploitation, artificially lowered wages, and poor employment outcomes. It needs to be phased out; review some of my previous postings on this issue.

Recent developments have cast new light on the issue and energized advocates trying to end the practice. Last February, 2014, President Obama issued an Executive Order that raises to $10.10 the hourly minimum wage paid for work performed by parties who contract with the Federal Government, including workers with disabilities. According to the Order, raising the pay of low-wage workers increases their morale and the productivity and quality of their work, lowers turnover and its accompanying costs, and reduces supervisory costs.

Photo credit: APSE

Yet, at the same time, SourceAmerica, formerly known as NISH, as the agency responsible for distributing government contracts to non-profits, continues to routinely award such contracts to many non-profits that pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage. Indeed, it has even lobbied against the phasing out of Section 14(c). This recently lead to a very public protest of SourceAmerica headquarters by a collaboration of national advocacy organizations, including APSE, the National Federation of the Blind, the National Council on Independent Living, ADAPT, Little People of America, and TASH.

Finally, bi-partisan support continues to grow for US House Bill H.R. 831, The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act. Now with 96 co-sponsors (as of August, 2014), the bill would end issuing any new special wage certificates by the Department of Labor. It also phases out existing certificates, giving for-profits one year until their certificate is revoked; public entities have two years; and private non-profit vocational providers using sub-minimum wage will have 3 years to transition to integrated job placements at commensurate wages. At that time, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act will also be repealed.

Over 2700 existing certificates are being used across the US currently. Predictably the outcry from most in reaction to the pending legislation has been dire predictions of layoffs, closures, and the spectra of people having nowhere to go or nothing to do. And while this could actually happen, it could only occur if those providers elect to do nothing about modernizing their services over the phaseout. In fact, there are many other agencies that exist that serve the same individuals with the same kinds of support needs, and do so without using sub-minimum wage. A good deal of evidence supports the ending of this antiquated practice.

It’s time to make US wage policy consistent and inclusive of all people, including workers with disabilities.

How to Evaluate Employment First Policies

Over the last few years, the Employment First (EF) movement has taken off in nearly every state and several Canadian provinces. The clear intent of an EF movement is to make an individual, integrated, paid job the first option for individuals with disabilities receiving day services.

This is no easy task for a service system that relies on segregated facilities. The context is that only 21 to 23% of people served in day services are currently employed in the community. A good number of those individuals are in group employment settings such as enclaves and crews. Most individuals with disabilities of working age find themselves in sheltered workshops, or non-work community day programs.

In addition, there remains a steady reliance on sub-minimum wages in both sheltered workshop placements as well as in some supported employment services.

For EF to succeed, it must not only change expectations about individuals with disabilities and employment; it must fulfill those expectations with results. The devil is in defining what those outcomes should look like. Having now worked in numerous states and provinces struggling with implementing or beginning an EF approach to services, here are some priorities about what success should look like, and how to overcome some of the obstacles traditional services present:


1. Focus outcomes on growing the percentage served in integrated employment. Track it agency by agency publicly.

It is not enough to measure the number of new placements made since implementing EF. You also must expect a decline in facility-based workshops and non-work programs at the same time. Ultimately, systems change should be reflected in a greater ratio of people in individualized integrated work versus workshop/non-work programs. Citing greater numbers of placements has little meaning when the numbers served in the day system itself are growing, sometimes at a greater rate than the rate of increase in employment.

2. Reduce reliance on sub-minimum wage. Track it agency by agency publicly.

Using sub-minimum wage to solve productivity issues in employment is unnecessary and a shortcut that avoids using better job matching, accommodation, training and other support strategies. It also has been shown to open people up to exploitation, and causes a continuation of impoverishing already marginalized people.

3. Make sure transitioning students and those on wait lists focus on immediate job placement and support.

Letting young people and others enter an obsolete system that has caused a movement toward EF is unconscionable. In public policy, one should never needlessly inflate a system you are trying to devolve.

Overcoming Obstacles

1. Stop using the workshop as a safety net.

Having people re-enter a facility perpetuates a continued reliance on segregated services during non-work or non-employment periods, when the focus should be on re-employment, community job skill training, career development or seeking greater hours.

2. Freeze refilling empty workshop “slots” due to job placements from the wait list, new referrals and school graduates.

Without ending workshop referrals, workshops will continue to segregate and serve individuals needlessly, despite clear evidence of poorer outcomes for the individual and lower cost-benefits to the taxpayer.

3. Stop replacing workshops with non-work day programs, perpetuating labor market exclusion.

When you define the problem as simply closing workshops, you end up with a lot of people volunteering, shopping or hanging out. This is neither the goal nor a solution to segregated employment.

EF has caused great fanfare in many places, and we have seen a number of pronouncements and proclamations. But will we see the system actually change its outcomes? Let me know what you are seeing in your part of the world. Let’s not be disappointed with the opportunity EF represents…

Finally! A Civil Rights Breakthrough

 The following is a guest post by my colleague Bob Lawhead.
– Dale

On April 8, 2014 the U.S. Department of Justice announced “a landmark settlement agreement between the United States and the state of Rhode Island, vindicating the civil rights of approximately 3,250 individuals across the state with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD).” This case constitutes the nation’s first statewide settlement involving the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities in segregated sheltered workshops and day facilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  It is well known that these conditions exist in every state of the union and in the District of Columbia. 

Programs continue to segregate people, seemingly justifying the continuation of inaccessible publicly-funded recreation centers and programs.  Sheltered workshops and segregated day activity centers continue to keep people in perpetual slavery without the benefit that comes from a real job for real pay. These examples are most certainly “separate” but have never been “equal” to the public educational, recreational and employment programs currently in existence for the “typical” population.
According to the New York Times (Editorial, April 11, 2014) “Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities historically have been shuttled far from society’s mainstream into segregated lives and workplace serfdom, earning wages as low as pennies per hour for the most repetitive and menial jobs. The Supreme Court in 1999 pronounced this kind of treatment a civil rights violation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but abuse and isolation from society have continued to this day. The need to end the economic servitude and social exile of people with disabilities has long been clear. The Providence agreement is a promising but overdue starting point.”
Change driven by a response to a Department of Justice civil rights complaint can cost a state much more than taking the initiative to develop an Employment First policy. Additionally, the individual states should want to avoid the burden of Rhode Island’s ten years of supervision by the Department of Justice. Public policy makers at the state level must move rapidly to proactively build integrated employment opportunities for their citizens with disabilities. According to the DOJ’s Ms. Samuels, “Unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities is harmful to people with disabilities and to our communities. We cannot wait another day to change. And we won’t.”
We must move forward to correct the injustice of state-sponsored segregation for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Professionals currently understand how to provide effective supports to people who desire employment. Research tells us that integrated employment options actually cost less than ongoing segregation during the day. Most importantly, people and their families are telling us in increasing numbers that they want to take their place in the regular workforce. It’s time, it’s right, let’s go for it!

Bob Lawhead serves as CEO of Community Link in Colorado. He is Public Policy Chair for the Colorado Association of People Supporting Employment First (CO-APSE) and Co-Chairs the National Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) Public Policy Committee. Bob also serves as the Colorado Project SEARCH Statewide Director, is a member of the TASH Employment Committee and is an advisor to Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) of Boulder County.


The Two Sides of the Employment First Coin

Like a two-sided coin, the advocacy movement of Employment First has two core linked components. 
The first side is about ending obsolete practices – to phase out the needless segregation, less-than-minimum wages, and limited work tasks given to people with disabilities that make up much of sheltered work. 
The second side is to provide a system that supports, for every individual with a disability, a preference for quality employment services that are individualized. These are services that lead to well-matched jobs to enhance productivity, social success, and wages in community integrated businesses.
The success of both goals are interdependent. Moving people with disabilities out of sheltered workshops does not achieve the goal of a quality life if, after leaving, they remain excluded from typical community life, and instead sit home doing nothing, or be relegated to day programs focusing on non-vocational activities, or fail in poorly-matched and weakly-supported jobs.
And this is what might happen if states close workshops without investing in supported employment services. If states just maintain their supported employment for the small percentage of people receiving those services (about 22% nationally in the US), this will only perpetuate a serious bottleneck to employment people with significant disabilities have faced for the last 30 years. New services must be expanded or incubated to be able to serve more people. 
In addition, the level of quality of such services varies widely from place to place. Far too few agencies are well versed in marketing planning, job analysis and customization, or naturally sustainable job support strategies. A commitment to cutting edge service is a needed investment.
But, as well, ending a segregated approach with demonstrably poor outcomes must be part of the discussion of what needs to change. We cannot just ignore this half of the goal. Many of the large disability service agencies take the position that segregated facilities will just “fade away on their own” (to quote one such position paper) once better employment services are offered. But that is overly simplistic and has proven untrue over time. It will take proactive steps to end the current reliance on sheltered employment as a solution to work for people with disabilities.
If we consider both sides of Employment First, then we must acknowledge three basic conclusions. 
  1. First, change won’t occur until we freeze referrals to sheltered workshops, as is finally now being done in several states. Then there must be an active process to downsize the census over time.
  2. Two, offering quality employment services to many more people requires a large investment in capacity-building. This includes not only core basic training for the new staff that must be hired, but also in-service development to greatly increase the quality of career planning, job development, and job support. Many agencies still only provide rudimentary levels of these skill sets.
  3. And, finally, if established agencies are to successful change their missions and services, they must have access to technical assistance on organizational restructuring. Agency conversion can be complex and fraught with land mines, from family resistance, management restructuring, and the changing of agency mission and staff organization. Agencies taking this leap must be offered support, guidance and the resources necessary for them to succeed.

Workshops: The Burden of Proof is On You

Over the last year, I’ve been in front of numerous audiences to discuss the concept of Employment First and the need to phase out facility-based sheltered workshops. I don’t make the argument lightly. It is a wholesale change of focus for many. It uproots individuals from their comfort zone. It is threatening to agencies and parents. It requires funding and core policy shifts. 

Yet, I have no doubt it is the right thing to do. And not just because it seems right from a value point of view, which it does. The reasons are multiple, and added up they are compelling.
1. Research has unequivocally found that those who attend workshops, when matched to those who don’t, earn less, have more limited vocational experience, and ultimately take longer to find jobs and cost more to serve over time. 
2. Those who experience community employment and sheltered work choose community employment as their preference.
3. Segregation of people with disabilities has proven to make them more open to neglect, abuse, and exploitation.
But regardless, I find that most of those who refuse to make changes to a sheltered work system simply aren’t listening. They don’t want to examine evidence, because they see no need to change what they are comfortable doing. The threat of change, and the likely corresponding difficulties that go with any change, are too troublesome.
But the burden of proof should always rest on those who have put people in environments that deviate from the typical experiences of our communities. We really shouldn’t have to prove community is better. Before placing someone in a workshop (or institution, group home, day habilitation, etc.) that program should first show evidence their outcomes exceed what can be experienced by people with disabilities in a community setting with reasonable-costing support. It’s like prescribing medication. Do the gains outweigh the side effects? Before you take any drug that will have an impact on your health, you would want to know what all its effects will likely be.
The default setting should always be what is typically experienced by community members as it applies to the life of a person with a disability, with reasonable support as needed.
All disability support, programs and interventions are actually accommodations, from a wheelchair to supported employment to sheltered work. The level of deviation from typical life varies in scale with each, as do their outcomes. When a disability program deviates from typical experience, there must be a cost-benefit analysis. That is, weigh the benefits of the intervention against the costs, including price, difficulty, risk of stereotyping and discrimination, and the risk of reducing quality of life and life experience. 
For example, clearly a wheelchair has great benefits in increased mobility and corresponding independence. Compare this to its costs, which is not only its price, but also includes risk of discrimination and false stereotypes of lower intelligence, productivity, and more that people in wheelchairs have wrongly experienced. Despite the risks, most people with mobility needs use a wheelchair and confront the related issues.
But for workshops, the evidence clearly points to community employment as a better cost-benefit result. Maybe in the past, sheltered work showed a better outcome for individuals who would otherwise sit at home and do nothing; but that isn’t, nor should be, the situation today. Sheltered work is not today’s answer to disability unemployment. Disability facilities, the burden of proof lies with you. And there is no evidence there.

Sheltered Work Phasing Out in Rhode Island; Will Your State Host the Next Olmstead Investigation?

This week, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a landmark settlement based on the conclusion that the state of RI and the city of Providence failed to provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting, and were putting students in a school transition program at risk of unnecessary segregation in sheltered workshop and day program settings. Earlier this year, DOJ had investigated the state for violating the Olmstead decision of the Supreme Court through its day activity services system. They focused on Training Through Placement (TTP), a North Providence agency that had a sheltered workshop with transitioning students from the Birch Vocational Program and other schools.

Under the settlement, individuals in Birch and the TTP workshops will now receive supported employment and integrated day services sufficient to support 40 hours per week. It is expected people will work an average of 20 hours a week and receive competitive wages. According to the agreement, supported employment placements cannot be in sheltered workshops, group enclaves, mobile work crews, time-limited work experiences (internships), or other facility-based day programs.

The 29-page agreement is quite comprehensive, and follows on the heels of another DOJ intervention regarding sheltered workshops in Oregon (see The Good, Bad and Ugly). This now marks two separate states that within the last six months have been pushed, under the Olmstead decision, into finally taking action against their long-standing policies of primarily funding sheltered workshops for day services. Clearly, the issue of day service segregation is finally moving from “wait and see” to civil rights enforcement. 

Let’s look at the Rhode Island situation further. TTP workers with disabilities made an average $1.57 per hour, with one person making as little as 14 cents per hour. The investigation also found that Birch students were generally denied diplomas. Most were paid between 50 cents and $2 per hour, or were not paid at all, regardless of productivity. DOJ noted that the Birch program had been in existence for 25 years, and was a “direct pipeline” for cheap labor for TTP, which had contracts with local companies. The jobs were mostly typical of sheltered workshops, assembling jewelry, bagging, labeling and collating.

Effective March 31, 2014, the State will no longer provide placement or funding for any sheltered workshop or segregated day activity services at TTP. Further, last March, Rhode Island embraced an Employment First policy. Under the new policy, new participants in the state system that provides employment and other daytime services to 3,600 people with developmental disabilities will no longer be placed in sheltered workshops. The sheltered workshops should be completely phased out within the next two to three years.

The next question that should come to mind, if you are running or funding a program in a state chock full of workshops, is “Am I next?” Readers of this blog can examine the case presented for moving away from sheltered employment in other posts here. I also have had this discussion with some of the US DOJ attorneys. It’s time to expand the Employment First movement so that we away from sub-minimum wage, segregation, and limited work options, based on an obsolete model that can leave people open to exploitation. People with disabilities deserve better in every state. Employment First should not just be rhetoric. Take a leadership role now; there is no reason to wait for a lawsuit…

The Good, Bad and Ugly: Trying to End Obsolete Sheltered Work in Oregon

The state of Oregon, like it or not, will have a spotlight shining on it as it plans the future of employment services for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (ID/DD). Like most states, Oregon spends the large majority of its employment service dollars ($30 million a year) for individuals with disabilities to be in sheltered workshops. In 2012, advocates filed a class action lawsuit challenging Oregon’s failure to provide supported employment services.

Last month, in a startling move, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had joined the lawsuit, stating, “We are seeking to represent the interests of Oregonians currently working in sheltered workshops and those who are at risk of being placed in sheltered workshops upon their graduation.”

The complaint gave many examples of how people are currently “working” in workshops, such as one where 150 people with disabilities hand sort trash and clean garbage bins, with some earning only 44 cents an hour. The complaint noted that these conditions have persisted for decades, despite repeated reports and plans calling for action for reform. Again, this type of work is not unique to Oregon, and can be found throughout the US.

State Data: The National Report on Employment
Services and Outcomes, ICI, UMass Boston

Also, nearly every state reports integrated employment as only a small part of their day services. A recent article from the Institute on Community Inclusion at UMass Boston concluded that less than one in five people nationally are provided supported employment services, and that “there has not been a meaningful change in the number of people with ID/DD in integrated employment since 2001.”

In response to the complaint and the weight of the DOJ joining, Oregon Governor Kitzhaber issued an Executive Order to stop funding work assessments in sheltered workshops in 2014, and to stop funding sheltered workshops for those coming out of school or not already in one.

The Good

Every service system serves more people each year, yet the percentage of people in the majority service, sheltered work, stays the same. In effect, the numbers of people entering segregated work grows larger than those entering integrated work. In other words, four times as many people enter sheltered work each year as integrated work, making the problem larger and more difficult with time.

The Oregon executive order effectively freezes new placements in sheltered workshops, ending their continued growth. In addition, by eliminating work assessments in workshops, the order acknowledges the work being done there has little to no validity for predicting vocational preference or competence for any individual.

The state also says it will establish and implement a policy that Employment Services shall be evidence-based and individualized. Over the next nine years, the state sets targets to provide job services to 2,000 individuals.

The Bad

The Order considers group employment of eight or less, including crews and enclaves (an antiquated definition of supported employment) to be “integrated employment settings.” Group employment models have serious issues, and are not considered best practices, nor are they individualized as the Order announces services should be. Treating group placements as successful vocational outcomes misses an important point.

The Ugly

Disability Rights Oregon (DRO) immediately noted the planning holes in the Order regarding the future of the workshops in the state. Although “a significant reduction over time of state support of sheltered work” is stated, DRO notes that it provides “no adequate or effective commitment to benchmarks, system outcomes, or re-allocating or re-distributing resources to provide individuals with disabilities access to employment services in integrated settings. In sum, the plan all but assures that the goals for delivering services to individuals in the community are advisory goals and not commitments.”

This means there is little realistic planning for the challenging process to transfer to real community jobs those workers already placed in segregated facilities earning sub-minimum wages. And, according to the benchmarks, probably only a third of those already placed there will have access to employment serves over the next decade. Systems change requires a stronger effort in moving people out of workshops, not just closing the door to get in. It’s like trying to end institutionalization by simply stopping intakes. That’s not really a process, it’s more just a waiting game, and gives up on the residents already there.

Although this Executive Order acknowledges the goal of increasing employment and decreasing segregated work, as the system continues to grow, in all likelihood, most workers still stuck in sheltered facilities will continue to have no other options during their lifetime.

Low Productivity: More of An Excuse than Obstacle to Real Work

Low productivity assumptions

Several issues reside in the heated discussions over the need to change the traditional day service model for people with disabilities. But the defining one relates to competing beliefs about productivity: 

Can individuals with the most significant disabilities be productive in the workplace, such that sub-minimum wage is unnecessary? 

Those in the individualized community employment sector, myself included, believe yes. We use a zero-exclusion model, reject sub-minimum wage (referred to as 14(c), its legislative shorthand), and no group employment. Looking at various US national databases, these efforts represent probably only about 15% of people with developmental disabilities receiving day services.

Those providers in the much larger majority, the traditional day service sector, utilize segregated work centers and sub-minimum wage, and often rely on group employment models such as enclaves or crews. Yet, the functional levels of those they serve do not appear different from those in individualized community employment.
It appears that the loudest argument against ending 14c sub-minimum wage has been that its removal will take away employment opportunities for those with the most severe challenges. For example, on this blog, commenters talk about how, without a workshop or sub-minimum wage, their son or daughter would be left with little to do. And professional lobbyists for agencies providing more traditional services make the same case. In a recent In These Times article, reporter Mike Elk noted that even leading congressional disability advocate Sen. Tom Harkin will not pursue ending sub-minimum wage, stating that he “has heard from a number of advocates for people with disabilities that eliminating the sub-minimum wage option without having a real plan to create sustainable employment alternatives would be detrimental to Americans with disabilities currently working in 14(c) settings.” 
In reality, there is a real plan that has been around for over 30 years. It’s called supported employment. And eliminating 14(c) does not completely reflect what advocates have actually proposed, which is eventually eliminating it by phasing it out. The article then notes a key source of the position of retaining sub-minimum wage was Harkin’s former top disability staffer who now works as a lobbyist for ACCSES, a coalition of providers. He is quoted as saying: 

  • “Would you hire somebody who is working at 30% and not meeting productivity goals?” 
  • “What if somebody is not capable with or without an accommodation of working at a regular job?  Should we force them into a rehabilitation program with no work or sit at home and watch TV?” 
  • “If you eliminated 14(c), you would lose the opportunity for these people to be trained to be employed.”
Examine these statements carefully. What does 30% productivity mean? Where did it come from? As demonstrated in a workshop? On what tasks? With what support? Is this rate set in stone? How reliable is this a predictor of job success in the community?

A number like that put on a person is damaging; it is just an arbitrary label like any other stereotype.

The assertion that removing sub-minimum wage will lead to job loss is not only unproven, but false. This is demonstrated by the many workers across the US with very challenging disabilities who are working at minimum wage or better, yet whose productivity ratings in traditional (segregated) work training settings were extremely low. It also sets up a false choice (i.e., low paid work or none at all). This kind of thinking is only true if you have a narrow (and I would argue obsolete) view of job placement, productivity, and what people are capable of.

Here is the missing piece: The best predictor of job success is not whether we can convince employers to let people work at lower standards for lower wages; it is how well we customize employment and provide job supports to meet productivity demands. It is inherently unfair to close perceived productivity gaps by reducing the wages of those who need money the most, especially when we have other proven tools to enhance productivity. 

Essentially, human service agencies have relied on sub-minimum wage as an entry tool to access jobs (or keep people “busy” in workshops) in situations that are probably not well-matched nor sufficiently supported or accommodated to enhance good productivity. While it might be somewhat understandable, given the pressure on providers to met job goals, it is a poor solution to the chronic history of unemployment of those with disabilities. With better training and using existing job customization tools, sub-minimum wage is not necessary.

The continuing use of sub-minimum wage is actually hindering our ability to promote and provide well-matched employment. It has become an obstacle, first because of its misuse (the ongoing documentation of many instances of low wage exploitation alone should cause it to end). And secondly, because it has caused providers to rely on a “low cost” plea for job placement, rather than investing in the real task of developing the skills job developers need to produce a more productive job situation.

There are likely many, who after reading this, will still not agree, thinking such job matches and supports such as I describe are unrealistic for most. Note that such customized employment is indeed already being accomplished in many places. In a future blog, I will to try to explain more about how to individualize jobs such that productivity can be reached to justify commensurate wages.

Productivity, at first glance, seems to be just a matter of how fast you do what is given to you. But dig deeper, and you see that is more about how well the worker is matched and supported to accomplish something needing to be done. And the answer on succeeding in that, though challenging, is up to the provider’s abilities at customizing, accommodating, carving, training, and more.

Lobbyists for day programs hanging on to sub-minimum wage as an answer for their belief about those “not capable of work” need to rethink the message they are giving. “He has 30% productivity” is no better than any other discriminatory disability stereotype, and it flies in the face of federal law where there is a presumption of employability. And it’s a damn shame that Senator Harkin has accepted it as fact.

Supported Employment and the Higgs Boson

I have always been a bit of a science geek. I find a sense of understanding about life, and even spirituality, from the deep discoveries we are making in the cosmos, particle physics, and quantum mechanics. And the pace of recent discoveries has been exhilarating. Just a few short years ago, we only knew of the planets in our own solar system. Now the number of identified planets is close to 800. This kind of thing alters the perception of our place in the universe.

What I also love about science is illustrated by the recent confirmation of the Higgs boson, a tiny particle that’s been theorized but never found. Without getting into a technical description, discovering or ruling out the Higgs would alter our fundamental understanding of how things are and how matter, including ourselves, exists. It is a monumental achievement in science.

But before the announcement of the Higgs, like any theory without evidence, there were conflicting scientific opinions. A group of respected physicists doubted the particle would ever be found, and believed that it likely didn’t exist.

But here is what happened. After a good deal of research, the particle was confirmed. So what did the scientists who had a different view do? Did they refuse to accept the results? No. They discarded their own carefully developed theories and embraced the new evidence. Basically they said, “We were wrong; let’s move on in a world where the Higgs exists.”

Now compare this to the evidence facing disability providers regarding segregated employment and sheltered workshops. Researcher Bob Cimera offered this succinct summary of a 2012 study: “…individuals from sheltered workshops earned less ($118.55 versus $137.20 per week), worked fewer hours (22.44 versus 24.78), and cost substantially more to serve ($7,894.63 versus $4,542.65) than peers who did not participate in sheltered workshops prior to become supported employees.”

Put another way, individuals who participate in sheltered workshops prior to becoming employed in the community via supported employment were “worse off than individuals who never participated in sheltered workshops.”

So, unless there is some contradictory evidence, wouldn’t it make sense to start planning a better way to fund day services than sheltered work? Yet, when this is proposed, the protesting roar of established providers has been loud. And it is based on their belief that “many people need a workshop; they are not productive enough to work in mainstream employment.” Well, where is the evidence? So far, all the research says that simply is not true.

Sheltered work doesn’t work – we have found our Higgs boson in the disability field, but most everyone still refuses to accept it.