Do Not Kill Off Sheltered Workshops
By Howard Levett
CPWD Independent Living Advisor
Since I have some personal experience, I’d like to address the article Sheltered workshops offer little benefit, studies find by Michelle Diament in Disability Scoop. (http://www.disabilityscoop.com)
I find interesting, the article’s opening paragraph, “Sheltered workshops are significantly more costly, yet no more effective than supported, competitive employment at ensuring job prospects for individuals with disabilities, new research suggests.”
I would add that yes, this paragraph is probably true. But perhaps the best explained reason for the first paragraph is the last paragraph that says, “Other factors like the severity of an individual’s behavior challenges might also play a role.” If you thought that everyone with a disability was alike and therefore trainable, perhaps you need to rethink this. As with any other group in society, we don’t all function at the same level and never will.
Most consumers partaking of these types of services have an interest in feeling like they are contributing, learning new skills and making money. The hard truth is that not everyone is suited for competitive employment with the same level of success. So, the more skilled worker, after learning in this environment, moves on to the competitive job market.
Those less able and less skilled and those that present challenging behaviors not suitable for the competitive market are left behind in the sheltered workshop….to earn less money at a higher cost. This should not be surprising to anyone. It’s the nature of the beast that those that aren’t able to progress or that have challenging behaviors are going to cost more money. They do in most any situation.
Those folks left behind in the sheltered workshop environment however are still able to feel that sense of accomplishment, the pride in earning money and learning new skills. Certainly something any of us would take pride in. Is this a bad thing? Of course not. The crime here is that work contracts are paid at below minimum wage when extra supervision and training are demanded. Not very smart when you know up front that non-disabled people working in a factory setting are going to be paid at least minimum wage with the need for less supervision.
My message is this; don’t kill off a program because perhaps it’s not paying for itself; don’t deprive those not able to work in the competitive job market with the opportunity to learn and feel the pride in putting in a day’s work and earning a paycheck.