Watertown, NY – Advocates of sheltered workshops are currently fighting the government’s decision to phase them out in an effort to make workplaces more inclusive for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Production Unlimited, a Watertown, NY-based company, is one of several dozen sheltered workplaces that currently employs adults with cognitive disabilities throughout the state. Those employed at the workshop are primarily responsible for making plastic binders, office supplies and safety equipment with wages based on the amount of output they produce per shift.
However because the pay scheme is based on piecework compensation the employees, many of whom have worked there for several years, are paid less than the state’s minimum wage. As a result, such work settings are slowly being phased out due to a ruling made by the Supreme Court 15 years ago stipulating that such models are discriminatory and simply segregate a segment of the workforce that are the most vulnerable to exploitation.
Opponents of the ruling argue that those with disabilities should be provided with the opportunity to work in mainstream environments yet advocates question the likelihood that more than a small amount of them would thrive within them. Therefore ultimately, time will tell if the court’s ruling will benefit or simply hinder the people who will be affected by it the most.
Source: David Sommertein on the npr website: Advocates Fight To Keep Sheltered Workshops For Workers With Disabilities