Ok – so I’m late to the party. I know. I’ve been watching and chewing and watching and reading and frankly I’m overwhelmed by

1) The conflicting output of regulations from state to state to federal to state
2) The many overgeneralizations about both workshops and the clients who choose this option
3) The lack of compassion for those who actually appreciate the role of
sheltered workshops
4) The lack of communication with those most vulnerable and
5) My own insignificance.

The mandates begun from state to state are similar, but not the same. In my home state of Nebraska, change is still  pulsing under the current and as yet has not crashed upon us. However, now that the federal government is involved, change is more than an undercurrent.


What I’ve seen

The disadvantage that I have as an objective reporter (let’s call it)
on the subject is this: I have not encountered a sheltered workshop where the people involved have been or felt oppressed.
I have not encountered families that feel put down or pushed over because of their involvement in these workshops. On a personal level, the people I am acquainted with are thankful for the sheltered part and the workshop part. These individuals and their families feel that these safe opportunities for socialization with peers, a small reward in return for a community contribution based on individual abilities, and a place they can call “work,” are all a positive part of their lives.

I have read, as well, of those who have been exploited by the system. I have seen the videos of those organizations which have preyed upon people’s vulnerabilities. I do not discount their existence. I agree that those oppressed should file suit and bring attention to injustice.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. (I can’t help it, I’m on the water metaphor today. )

what I want to see

The official stand of the road is this: Pro-Options.

  • Not all workshops are crooked and oppressive.
  • No one should be “forced” to work in a workshop.
  • No one should feel that a workshop is their only option.
  • People should be able to choose and try what is most comfortable and appropriate for their skill set and their safety.

Even those who are most in need of care, be it due to behavioral or physical issues, should not feel forced into a decision.

The initial information from Rhode Island indicated that workshops will stay an option. That is what I hope to see. Options. But without funding, this option will inevidably become a rare availability. And in my personal experience, working through the bureaucracy just to get to an option is, well, drowning folks in red tape (as continues the metaphor).

OK. My friendly word counter on the screen is telling me to wrap this up. I will for today. What comes next will be to hear from some of the providers in my area about how they intend to make adjustments, not fight the tide. In Nebraska, organizations are hoping to make the changes from within that will best serve the clients in our community. When the change is mandated from the “outside,” no matter how well meaning, the effect on those directly involved can be harsh, confusing, and frankly short-sighted.

Even though June is about Vacations – There’s always work. Work to be done. So here on “The Road” we’re going to keep talking about this. I hope you stay in the conversation as well.

Tell us now: what changes for the better have you seen in your area? What are your concerns or fears? I am continuing to contact organisations and individuals involved on both the local and national level, tell us, what are your questions? We want to help find answers.

This blog was written by Mardra Sikora of Grown Ups and Downs (c) 2014