Just about everyone wants to work, can work, and benefits from work. Yet society has historically viewed people with disabilities as incapable of being productive members of the workforce. This culture of low expectations has deprived many people with disabilities of the opportunity to work in real jobs for real pay, and the chance to fulfill their potential as valued members of the community.
Despite the demonstrated success of supported employment services, and the positive outcomes for people with disabilities in competitive employment, many remain stuck in facilities like sheltered workshops. These workshops are segregated from the community. Individuals typically spend their days performing monotonous and repetitive tasks, and are paid far less than minimum wage. They often remain in these workshops for decades, without a meaningful opportunity to pursue jobs of their own choosing.
Many individuals with disabilities spend hours on end in segregated day programs, interacting only with other people with disabilities, with little, if any choice, and unable to pursue the individualized activities and goals that would make their days meaningful.
Whether they are in sheltered workshops or congregate day programs, people with disabilities are often reduced to lives of dependence, poverty, segregation, and isolation because of the failure of public agencies to provide integrated employment options and the services necessary to attain and maintain competitive employment.
People with disabilities deserve better.
CPR has made it a priority to expand integrated work opportunities for people with disabilities through its litigation and policy work. We developed an initiative to challenge segregated sheltered workshops in Oregon under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and filed the first lawsuit in the nation that successfully advanced this strategy. The settlement in this case is now a model for other states.
Based upon lessons learned in Oregon and our national policy work, CPR has published a series of papers on transforming state employment programs. We have developed and led several national policy initiatives, and partnered with local disability organizations to advocate for expanded access to integrated employment services, individualized employment counseling that supports informed choice, and the phasing out of segregated employment programs in favor of opportunities for competitive integrated employment.