All individuals with disabilities should have the freedom, support, and opportunity to achieve competitive integrated employment first. This means that individuals with developmental disabilities would work and receive minimum wage or greater commensurate with other employees. Historically, many individuals with developmental disabilities have spent their days in workshops or day programs with other individuals with developmental disabilities and not in their community. This has been due, at least in part, to the perception that individuals with developmental disabilities are not capable of becoming productive employees and to outdated policies and practices that perpetuate this assumption.
Individuals with developmental disabilities can work with targeted supports. Supported employment is rooted in the premise that all individuals, including those with the most severe disabilities, can and should be an integral part of their communities, productive, and valuable. Benefits of supported employment for persons with developmental disabilities can be extraordinary – the right job can quite literally change someone’s life. This value is supported by the Bill of Rights of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, FL Statute 393.13, section 2.B (4), which declares that the design and delivery of treatment and services to persons with developmental disabilities should be directed by the principles of self-determination and therefore should reduce the use of sheltered workshops and other noncompetitive employment day activities and promote opportunities for those who choose to seek employment.
The Council encourages legislators to ensure a clear commitment to supported employment and to create a system where employment is the first option available for all individuals with developmental disabilities. This will take several stages and involve all stakeholders, maintaining open communication. Funding allocations need to reflect this commitment by shifting from sheltered workshops and other non-competitive options to supported competitive employment systems. This system and funding shift needs to also include a phase out of the sub-minimum wage that is part of the engine that runs sheltered workshops and the other non- competitive options.
The evidence in recent years is quite clear: that with proper planning, the right job match, the right supports, and right funding incentives, that even individuals with the most significant disabilities can work successfully in the community at minimum wage or higher. Research indicates that over time, supported employment is cost efficient. A study of all 231,000 individual supported employment cases closed by Vocational Rehabilitation between 2002 and 2007 found that the average supported employee generated a net monthly benefit to taxpayers of $251 per individual. This resulted in over $ 69,577, 200 in tax revenue nationally per year!
The Council’s Position:
The Council supports a system where current funding for employment programs shift away from sheltered workshops and other non- competitive and move towards a system where supported and integrated employment is the first option available for all individuals with developmental disabilities.