A round-table of disability advocates presented their case for the integration of people with disabilities to a U.S. Senate committee.  The advocates argued that a policy should be written to help people with developmental and intellectual disabilities transition into regular workplaces, rather than pigeonholing them into very specific, sheltered professional roles.

On September 15, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee listened to a number of witnesses describe their experiences with the sheltered workshop experience for people with significant disabilities.

“Sheltered Workshops” are facilities that employ people with disabilities exclusively and that are authorized to employ workers with disabilities below the minimum wage.

These sheltered workshops were initially established as a way to help individuals with disabilities obtain employment, but these environments are now being argued to be sub-par and unfair for people with disabilities.

Currently, the Department of Labor allows employers to pay disabled employees less than minimum wage if their disability proves to make them less productive as a result of their disability.

The individuals who met with the Senate committee argued that segregated environments for disabled individuals limits their opportunities and puts them in danger of abuse, neglect, or unfair treatment.

The sheltered employment policy essentially contradicts the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that disabled individuals should be integrated and work within their communities, being provided the opportunities to develop within their place of employment and earn fair wages.