The Star Tribune recently published a five-part series on the services for and treatment of people with disabilities in Minnesota. The series talked about low wages, group homes, sheltered workplaces, intimacy, and other issues. It also offered a look at other states, especially Vermont and its more progressive approach to employing people with disabilities.
In my opinion, each article exaggerated the problems a little, but at the same time delivered some good points. The first write-up was the most interesting to me. It talked about workplaces that are created exclusively for people with disabilities. While sheltered workplaces can be good for the disabled, some workers that should be in more competitive jobs are only in the sheltered setting because that is where they can get support they need. Furthermore, most workers at these places get paid below the minimum wage.
According to the first article, Minnesota is below the national average in placing workers with disabilities in competitive jobs. There are reasons for this that include timing, transportation, type of job, and the accommodations that people need. Personally, I tried finding a place to work by doing customized job carving but both efforts evaporated due to the fact that companies weren’t hiring and because of lack of available resources. I believe Minnesota should try something like Vermont, but keep sheltered workplaces for people with severe disabilities. Vermont has shown that they have success at job carving, as 40% of people with intellectual disabilities in that state have competitive jobs, compared to just 13% in Minnesota.
I have never seen a major newspaper cover this topic so extensively. I am glad that the Star Tribune tackled this issue because improvements can now be made to the system in Minnesota. Click here to read this amazing series of articles. Please feel free to fire away with comments!
Written by: Michael L. Sack