Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Some good news

A sheltered workshop in an unrelated

I don't know about your neck of the woods. But over here, sheltered workshops for people with disabilities enjoy saintly status. There are a number of them in our city and they receive nary a critical word. And since C. is both too young and too disabled to attend one, we have no first hand experience to enlighten us.

So the headlines about Rhode Island's workshops caught me by surprise. It seems that since January 2013, the US judiciary has been investigating them for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now, as a result of a statewide settlement agreement, 2,000 Rhode Islanders with intellectual disabilities who are currently being served by segregated programs will have opportunities to work in real jobs in mainstream settings and at competitive wages - rather than the average $2.21 an hour they are  earning. (Sources: New York Times and the Department of Justice website.)

You'll find many heartwarming profiles of people with cognitive impairment who have already transitioned to the general community and are faring fantastically at the Faces of Olmstead website (operated by the Cicil Rights Division of the DOJ.)

Of course this landmark decision which should herald similar agreements nationwide and even overseas, doesn't directly affect our children. It isn't even relevant to many of the adults who attend  my city's workshops.

The participants in the program operated by C.'s school, for instance, suffer from blindness and multiple disabilities that would undoubtedly prevent them from holding down regular jobs. In fact I'm told they actually work - packing bags of sweets sold for parties or events - only a fraction of the time spent at the workshops.

Social and rehabilitative activities fill the rest of the day there. But there are probably many who, like those covered by the Rhode Island's settlement, could transition to the general community.

In any case, news of progress in the world of disabilities, whatever the category, always give me a buzz. I am convinced that there will be a delayed ripple effect that will benefit our children too.

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