Series Compares Sheltered Workshops And Supported
July 18, 2006
GRESHAM, OREGON & VANCOUVER, WASHINGTON--The Oregonian newspaper this weekend featured three lengthy articles about sheltered workshops and supported employment of people with developmental disabilities in Gresham, Oregon and Clark County, Washington.
The articles point out that, despite efforts to move Americans with developmental disabilities out of institutions and isolated schools, about 374,000 are still segregated in 3,000 sheltered workshops.
Most workers at these facilities earn far less than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, under what are known as sub-minimum, or "special", wage certificates. But just five workers with the U.S. Department of Labor are assigned to monitor how sheltered workshops determine the piece rates or productivity rates by which workers are paid. In many cases, the Oregonian learned, workers with disabilities are paid even much less than even what the sub-minimum wage rules require.
Workers, usually called "clients" or "consumers" at these facilities, are often faced with performing non-paid "make-work" or "practice work" when contract work is not available.
The third article follows a Vancouver man who went from a sheltered workshop to a series of jobs in the community with the help of supported employment providers. The story gives kudos to Washington state, and particularly to Clark County, for taking the giant leap of closing sheltered workshops and moving people directly into community employment.
These stories contain references from people many readers will find familiar, including David Mank, Tom Nerney, and David Pitonyak.
Related articles from The Oregonian:
"Out of the mainstream: Workers with disabilities remain in insulated eddies despite a consensus"
"Subminimum wages, shorted pay widespread"
"A journey begins with a job: A worker with autism leaves a sheltered shop for the regular work force"