Despite numerouse national and state policies promoting integrated employment, 76% of adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities are served in facility-based, segregated programs – usually work activity centers or sheltered workshops. Whenever advocates talk about closing a sheltered workshop so the people there can get real jobs, the argument of choice is raised. “But this is where they want to be…” You are taking away their right to chose…”
In a recent article published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, authors Migliore, Mank, Grossi and Rogan look at whether or not this gap between policy and practice is in part due to the lack of interest of adults with intellectual disabilities and their families for employment outside facility-based programs.
The authors surveyed 210 adults with intellectual disabilities in 19 sheltered workshops, their respective families or caregivers, and staff members in these workshops. They found that 74% of adults with intellectual disabilities, 67% of families, and 66% of staff felt those they serve would prefer employment outside workshops, or at least consider it as an option. The majority of all groups believed that adults with intellectual disabilities can perform outside workshops if support is made available.
The study highlighted the fact that the preference for employment outside of workshops is not associated with the severity of the disability. So, who is restricting choice? Perhaps it is those who insist that employment service dollars be spent on an obsolete model.
Source: Migliore, A., Mank, D., Grossi, T., and Rogan, P. (2007). Integrated employment or sheltered workshops: Preferences of adults with intellectual disabilities, their families, and staff. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 5–19.