Rhode Island’s Agreement Broadens Job Inclusion For People With Disabilities

Rhode Island and the Justice Department are paving the way to broaden job inclusion for people with disabilities. Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced a statewide settlement agreement that will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for approximately 3,250 Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The landmark, ten-year agreement is the nation’s first statewide settlement to address the rights of people with disabilities to receive state-funded employment and daytime services in the broader community, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. Approximately 450,000 people with I/DD across the country spend their days in segregated sheltered workshops or in segregated day programs.

The agreement will see Rhode Island moving people out of the sheltered workshops, where many people perform menial tasks that don’t allow workers to develop their full potential, which was not the original idea behind those workshops. When first started, they were thought of as a launch pad to help people with disabilities to transition to more competitive employment. As it turned out, except for a few success stories, the majority simply ended up segregated from the rest of society.

Now, 2,000 Rhode Islanders with I/DD who are currently being served by segregated programs will have opportunities to work in real jobs at competitive wages. Additionally, over the next ten years, 1,250 students with I/DD will receive services to help transition into the workforce.

“This change to an inclusive employment model will involve a shift in the way many people think about people with disabilities and their ability to work. Rather than focusing on what they can’t do, it will drive people to think about their abilities and the ways they can contribute to the workforce. People with disabilities can and do make valuable contributions to the workforce,” Keystone Human Services, an organization focused on people with disabilities and their development, wrote in a blog post about the changes in Rhode Island.

“Today’s agreement will make Rhode Island a national leader in the movement to bring people with disabilities out of segregated work settings and into typical jobs in the community at competitive pay,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “As Rhode Island implements the agreement over the next ten years, it will make a dramatic difference in the lives of people with disabilities, businesses and communities across the state."

Image credit: Keystone Human Services