Segregation Prevention Law Leads To Employment Changes For People With Disabilities

Jan 16, 2018

Federal requirements could force changes to sheltered work programs for people with disabilities
Credit cetc.org

Utah Republican Representative Ed Redd of Logan serves on the social services committee that approves job training  funding for individuals with disabilities. The lawmaker is meeting with clients and their families Tuesday to gather comments about federally driven changes to the state's employment training policy.

Providers of services for people with disabilities in Cache County have questions about how the mandated changes to their client’s employment options will impact their work.

Kae Lynn Beecher is director of the Cache Employment and Training Center which contracts with the state of Utah to serve more than 200 clients each year.

"And there we can help people work on their work skills, working toward finding jobs in the community or in sheltered employment there at our facility," Beecher said.

Known in Beecher’s northern Utah community as CETC, one of the services the center provides is a sheltered employment program. The open space assembly area is set up to give clients an opportunity to do paid piece work for a national company that has similar programs for people with disabilities throughout the country. In this case, trained staff work with clients of varying ability to help them earn money by folding boxes. Beecher says the arrangement benefits her clients and actually costs the company more than it would for them to automate the folding process. 

"We also have multiple classes to help people achieve their individualized goals," Beecher said. "We want people to be involved in their community and so we are out in the community doing activities and participating in all the different aspects of community living."

Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities Director Angie Pinna says the federal government is not questioning the benefit of paid or unpaid sheltered workshop jobs being performed by individuals with disabilities. She said the concern comes from where the jobs are being performed.

"Is it created specifically only for people who have disabilities versus a community based setting?" Pinna asked. "It is fair to say that large segregated settings won't meet the settings rule that we do have to meet by March 17, 2022."

The U.S. Department of Justice's 1999 Olmstead portion of the American With Disabilities Act requires Pinna and other directors of  state services for people with disabilities throughout the country to make changes to government funded contracted programs. The changes reflect the ADA's integration mandate to prevent what appear to be segregated employment settings.

Earlier this month parents, providers and clients who attended a state-sponsored public input meeting said  attempts to prevent segregation could lead to isolation for adults with disabilities.

As early as this coming July  individuals with disabilities who are not currently working a sheltered job will not have that option included in their job training program. Clients currently working jobs within a training center setting will be required to find community employment outside of a shelter within the next five years. 

The implementation of the law requires all employment training providers in Utah, including CETC, create a transition plan outlining how they will train and find community based employment for their clients. 

Utah lawmaker Representative Ed Redd, whose constituents include clients receiving funding for disability employment services, will meet with CETC and other shelter workshop clients from area employment training programs during a 7 p.m. Tuesday public meeting at the Logan CETC, 275 West 400 South. The state is accepting public comment on proposed changes to disability sheltered workshop and other employment programs through Sunday.