Sheltered workshops are not exploiting the disabled
An article in the July 1 News, written by Alison Knezevich of the Baltimore Sun, was one-sided and limited in scope. A very important point of view was omitted: the beneficiaries of these sheltered workshops. I realize not all workshops are equal and my view is based on the services my sister and children receive in New York State.
People who believe that employees with disabilities, especially those with developmental disabilities, are being exploited do not see the full picture. Their compensation is not limited to a paycheck. These workers are paid, generally, by piece, and they know they are being compared to those who work at a faster rate. They have regular job reviews and know they will be paid more by increasing their volume.
In addition, employees with special needs receive continuous on-the-job training and mobility skills, and with the help of a job coach, may get hired outside of a workshop setting. Employees also receive transportation to and from work, counseling, life skills, medical and behavioral supports and socialization in a safe environment. They are happy to go to work every day and happy to receive their biweekly paycheck that they excitedly take to the bank to be cashed.
Sheltered workshops also benefit the families of special-needs employees. Without these workshops, additional costs and burdens are placed on the group home or immediate family. Time spent at workshops may be the only respite some families receive.
Yes, New York State is on the bandwagon to close these workshops (and other day programs) and allocate these monies via different supports. But let’s not pretend that this is about how much a person earns, when closing the sheltered workshops is meant as a financial savings to the state. I hope it has a plan in place to meet the needs of those who benefit most before this happens.