Skip to main content

Zoom Text:

Federal Funding = More Workshops

Federal funding made these developments possible. The 1943 Amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act made people with mental retardation or emotional disabilities eligible for rehabilitation services along with people with physical disabilities.

The 1954 amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act (P.L. 83-565) established research and demonstration project funding, and funding for construction of rehabilitation facilities. The financing arrangements allocated funds to states based on a formula reflecting population and per-capita income. Since 1954, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation has supported research on all aspects of rehabilitation, including the social and occupational adjustment of people with mental disabilities.

1950s sign

Demonstration techniques for rehabilitating these individuals have been undertaken… Community rehabilitation agencies have extended and strengthened their facilities and resources for serving them... From 1954 through 1961… the estimated funds for vocational rehabilitation of people with mental disabilities increased 15-fold (PCMR). That expanded funding led to the rise of over 1,000 workshops across the country.

The Public Mandate: A Federal Overview
Produced by the Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program, Region 7, University of Missouri 2004

Supplemental Documents from RSA

The workshops varied considerably but had two common objectives:

  • to train adults who proved "suitable" for competitive employment, and
  • to provide long term or permanent employment for adults whose work skills were "not minimally acceptable to competitive industry."

Those who were considered "placeable" after training were classified as "deferred placeable" while those who were seen as only able to work in sheltered settings were classified "sheltered employable". In the language of the day, the "deferred placeable" were in the "high educable range" while the "sheltered employable" were in the lower educable and high trainable range.

People working in a factory

Two pressures then led to the development of day activity programs.

  • First, as workshops gained experience they saw the need for a different kind of program. "Where the skills of daily living in the community were grossly deficient, it seemed pretentious to place major stress on vocational training" (PCMR, 1972).
  • Second, as public education authorities expanded services to children labeled trainable, more and more parents kept their children at home rather than institutionalize them. Then, at age 17 or 18, these young adults left school. This created a crisis for families who were then without a day program for their children. As a result, the demand for institutionalization increased for young adults between the ages of 20 and 24, as did the demand for day programs.
organization chart
John Holahan and Jerry Walsh, The Arc of MN,
issued this design of the service system in 1956

Click to view larger version (PDF)