Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Earning a dollar an hour?

Would you work for less than a dollar an hour?

As a recent report from the National Disability Rights Network reports, for 3 out of every 4 individuals with a developmental disability, participation at a “sheltered workshop” is the best option offered for employment.

A dollar an hour?

How is that even legal?

Our current labor laws allows for some exemptions for employers of people with disabilities that can pay as little as 10% of the minimum wage which means that many individuals in our communities are working for less than a dollar an hour. Reports on “sheltered workshops” show that these workers may take home about $175 a month.

Although the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) was intended to provide broad protection against discrimination, individuals with disabilities have continued to be marginalized and be encouraged to participate in these “training programs”. Often taught non-transferrable skills, these dead end jobs provide no opportunity for advancement, interaction with non-disabled age peers or an expectation of self-sufficiency.

The original “sheltered workshops” started in 1840.

When we wore corsets, churned butter, and drove horse and buggies.

When women couldn’t vote.

And when slavery was still legal in many states.

Thankfully in so many other ways, humanity has grown to understand that all people have value and have something to offer to the world. It’s pretty simple – segregation and exploitation cannot and should not be justified.

And a dollar an hour for work is not acceptable.

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