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Warrior statue

Wage Warriors

Sheltered workshops and advocates alike have given their single minded focus to the drama that is currently unfolding in Oregon.  An American federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of 2300 people with developmental disabilities against the state of Oregon.  Claimants have stated that the Americans with Disabilities Act is being violated through state support of sheltered workshops.  If the ‘wage warriors’ are successful, a new legal precedent will have been set, ushering in an era of change for sheltered workshops across the continent.

Warrior statue
Photo by Keoni Cabral

The Obama administration is weighing in saying that limiting people with disabilities to sheltered workshops is no different than segregating them in institutions.

“The unwarranted placement of persons with disabilities in sheltered workshops similarly perpetuates ‘unwarranted assumptions’ that such persons are ‘incapable or unworthy’ of working in competitive employment or interacting with non-disabled co-workers or customers,” wrote Justice Department attorneys in the statement of interest.

Sheltered workshops have long been a bone of contention in the disability field where participants earn far less than minimum wage.  This Disability Scoop article references Paula Lane, 48, as making only $0.66 per hour just over a year ago.  That’s a far cry from Oregon’s minimum wage of $8.80.  Lane’s been campaigning for competitive employment for more than a decade so that she can afford extras like outings to country music concerts.

Earning minimum wage seems reasonable, so does being able to afford to go to country music concerts on one’s own dime.  I’m on tenterhooks to see how this case pans out.  A ruling against the sheltered workshop model will change the face of employment for people with developmental disabilities across Canada and the U.S.

What do you guys think?  Any thoughts on the case and how it will affect employment and supports in your community?


Inclusion Blog Post

By Inclusion Blog Post

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  1. This subject comes up often as I travel the country meeting with staff in different agencies. They tell me that sheltered workshops are very good for some people (those generally, but not always, that require high levels of supports) and a bane for others (generally those requiring less supports). Why must all these issues be so polarized and yes/no black/white? Why can’t the needs of the individual dictate the course of action?