Employment is a difficult subject in the Ds community. It is a reason for advocacy but it is also a source for heated, emotional debate within the community.
For decades, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have spent their days in what are called sheltered workshops. Opponents cite the segregated nature and sub-minimum wages as reasons to completely do away with these places. Families on the other side insist that their children need safe spaces and would suffer setbacks if their routine was upended without an alternative in place.
The truth is, the statistics are not in favor of competitive employment.
“The unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 8.0 percent in 2018, more than twice the rate of those with no disability (3.7 percent).” – Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 26, 2019
Whichever side you fall on, there are opportunities for advocacy available.
The Arc stays up to date on employment advocacy and pending legislation.
A group called Dignity Has A Voice advocates for choice.
“Empowering people with the most significant disabilities to defend and protect the right to choose sheltered employment as a valuable work choice.”
They will be celebrating the second annual National Day for Choice on April 16th in Jefferson City, Missouri. 15 other states have joined their cause: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin!
Some parents who have the resources are able to create self-employment opportunities for their children.
No one situation works for every family but everyone deserves to spend their days in an environment where they feel fulfilled and safe. Advocacy is the road to that future.