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Lawmakers Want to Close the Loophole That Pays Disabled Workers Pennies An Hour


Lawmakers Want to Close the Loophole That Pays Disabled Workers Pennies An Hour

Mike Elk

Recently released Census data reveal that, in 2015, the poverty rate dropped significantly for most demographic groups. One of the only groups who didn’t see an improvement were people with disabilities: the percentage of disabled Americans (age 18-64) living in poverty increased from 25.9% to 26.5%. For Americans without disabilities, the poverty rate decreased from 14.1% to 12.8%.


So it appears it takes a family member with a disability for some congress people to care about the disabled; otherwise, it appears like business as usual, screwing Americas most vulnerable citizens from the duopoly congress. Build a better America, and world, GO GREEN 2016!


While the sentiment in this essay appears to be well-meaning, in Iowa and across the country, it is closing sheltered workshops that had provided piece work/paid work for persons with disabilities.

In Iowa there has been a transition during the past 15 years to develop Day Habilitation services for adult persons with disabilities; those adults who can't compete for minimum wage jobs --or any paid jobs-- are herded into Day Habilitation.

People who I know would still like to perform piece work/paid work, but they need a wage adjusted to their work abilities. Sure, it isn't fair to earn very little. But these people usually have insights into life as unfair.

There is no sense of a need for sheltered workshops in Mike Elk's article, and that's a glaring shortcoming.

Bringing this subject to the front in the CD site deserves a plaudit.


Strongly agree that the issue is less simple than the OP makes it appear. For one thing, the writer conflates all kinds and levels of disabilities. Sure, there are lots of people with disabilities who can compete for jobs outside of sheltered workshops, as the citation of the Member of the House, Langevin, "who is paralyzed," demonstrates, but far from all of those in workshops ever will.

My husband has worked in residential care for developmentally disabled adults over three decades, from the moment of deinstitutionalization. I've known clients of his with fragileX, Down's, and a variety of specific and nonspecific syndromes. Every diagnostic category includes individuals who could get themselves to basic assembly and warehouse jobs, or service jobs alongside "able" workers, as well as those who have no ability to communicate or comprehend and require "hand over hand" assistance to earn even the subminimum wage that gives them the dignity of feeling they are working and earning. Ari Ne'eman's inflammatory invocation of eugenics is insulting to these workers and to the professionals who give them the caring support they need.

I'm interested in and impressed by Vermont's and other states' experience, but especially curious to know what those who cannot hold "normal" jobs do all day. In the 1930s people with all levels of developmental disabilities were routinely warehoused. I saw them in a NJ facility in the early 1970s, where "occupational therapy" consisted of women given stamped embroidery fabric and a single color of floss to use to trace it. When I asked why they were so limited, I was told "If you give them more than one color, they'll spend all day deciding which one to use, and never get anything done." So "getting something done" was producing faces and grass and clouds in the sky all in sickly yellow, all around the table. That, Mr. Ne'eman, is draconian. A sheltered workshop where the least able packed plastic parts that they might recognize in the store, and took real if subminimum paychecks home to supervised residences, is a great advance and a continuing necessity for some.


Thank you, bkswrites, for your well-written and considered and thoughtful response!

Like your husband, I have worked with persons with developmental disabilities, in residential and vocational services, for over 30 years, and I naturally have a keen interest in this feature. With 3 comments, this trips the trigger of very few of us.

For the past 20 years I've worked vocational, and I witnessed the start of Day Habilitation services replacing piece work/paid work, as I noted roughly in 2000, with Bush's first term. With its continuation these past 8 years, and Obama spokesman Ari Ne'eman's position, Day Habilitation is bipartisan.

Day Habilitation service, which costs less, has been closing sheltered workshops in Iowa and I presume elsewhere during these past 8 years.

Persons with disabilities competing with "able-bodied"? Support services are needed, and funding, public and private funding sources, aren't allowing that in Iowa, despite Ari Ne'eman's wishes.