Advocates for disabled fault state's progress on advancing workers | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Advocates for disabled fault state's progress on advancing workers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2018 at 1:09 PM

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Disability Rights Arkansas today issued a report faulting Arkansas for poor progress in moving disabled people who work in sheltered workshops to more "integrated employment."

The report examines state spending of vocational rehabilitation money and payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities working in segregated settings.

The organization said it gathered information in 2016 and 2017 on 40 sheltered workshops.

It found the state is paying subminimum wages to 2,800 people with an average age of 40. Many have been working in those settings for more than a decade. The work includes shredding, recycling, sorting and doing contract work.

Nationally, legislation aimed at ending such practices has produced improvement, DRA said. "The economy in Arkansas is churning along, now is the time for the state to begin serious discussions on preparing and moving towards competitive integrated employment for Arkansans with disabilities,” says Caroline Boch, attorney with DRA., in a prepared release.

The report makes recommendations:

* A multi-year plan to reduce reliance on sheltered workshops/

* Community-based services to help people move into integrated workplaces.

* Give legislative priority to employment in money and services for the disabled.

From the release:

“Eight years ago Governor Beebe established the Employment First Task Force. Eight years later, Arkansas continues to operate segregated settings at an alarming rate and we are still talking about the issue,” says Tom Masseau, Executive Director at DRA. “Arkansas can no longer continue its reliance on segregated settings while the rest of the country moves towards integration. All Arkansans with disabilities deserve an opportunity to earn a minimum wage and we must end these discriminatory practices. It is time for Arkansas to do better and begin removing barriers that prevent Arkansans with disabilities from working in a competitive integrated workplace.

The full report is available at the group's website.

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