year-long investigation of Rhode Island’s sheltered workshop programs, the U.S.
Department of Justice (DOJ) announced this month that it had come to an
agreement with the “Ocean State” to overhaul the state’s sheltered workshops
and day programs for people with developmental disabilities.
As terms of the
settlement, Rhode Island will begin offering supported employment placements
that must pay at least minimum wage, provide educational and volunteer
activities for people with disabilities not working currently, and arrange for
students 14 years of age and older to intern, visit job sites and access
450,000 people with developmental disabilities working in sheltered workshops
and other segregated programs, many of whom are earning less than minimum wage
– an average of $2.21/hourly in Rhode Island alone – DOJ is encouraging other
states to follow Rhode Island’s lead and shift focus to more viable employment
options for workers with disabilities.
Disability Institute (NDI), as the nation’s first non-profit exclusively
dedicated to building a better economic future for all people with
disabilities, has joined its colleagues in the disability community to call for competitive, integrated employment
and insist on fair and competitive wages for workers with disabilities
, a key issue to providing a pathway to a
more stable financial future for the nearly 1 in 3 people with disabilities who
live in poverty.