Last week the Justice Department announced a “landmark” agreement with the state of Rhode Island, which was found to have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by segregating adults with disabilities in workshops and day facilities. Over the next ten years Rhode Island is required to:
- Assist these adults in securing typical jobs in the community that pay at least minimum wage with the flexibility of remaining in the workshop if they so prefer.
- Support non-work activities in the mainstream (i.e. libraries, recreational facilities).
- Prepare high school students with developmental disabilities for competitive jobs in the community through internships and mentoring programs.
Public funding that had been utilized to support segregated environments is to be redirected toward services in integrated settings. It is anticipated that the settlement will provide a roadmap to compliance for all states.
This consent decree came as a result of an investigation of the Providence Training Through Placement program by the federal Labor Department. The investigation found abuse of a federal law that allows the payment of subminimum wages. In addition, many workers had expressed interest in securing employment in a competitive workforce but had been ignored.
On a similar note, researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin/Madison examined 150 adults with autism. This study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, found that more independent work environments may lead to reduction in autism symptoms and improvement in daily living skills.
For these reforms to be successful, businesses must support expanded training and employment of persons with disabilities. A positive outgrowth was the announcement that the U.S. Business Leadership Network, which includes Fortune 500 companies and Walgreens, will sponsor a summit meeting in June 2014 to engage the business world in these efforts.
Advocates for adults with disabilities will be closely monitoring these developments in the upcoming months. If you’re a business person and would be open to the possibility of hiring a person with disability there are a wide range of programs available to assist you. For more information on how our Employment Specialists can assist adults with developmental disabilities in finding employment & meeting the needs of employers contact: myself, Steve Davis at SteveD@barberinstitute.org or Maggie Dimitriadis at MaggieD@barberinstitute.org.
- “The Barber Institute has a wonderful job coaching program that helps individuals gain their independence and become successful Wal-Mart Associates.” Lori – Wal-Mart, Human Resources Office.
- “[The individual placed is a] conscientious employee that appreciates his job. Richard – Girard Dinor, Owner.
- “I wanted to take a second to let you know how valuable your services are to our organization. Our employee that you have coached and trained is second to none . . . I would also strongly encourage any of my peers and colleagues to take advantage of the supported employment services offered by the Barber National Institute. They definitely won’t be disappointed!” Janet – Forestview Nursing Home, Dining Supervisor