Jobs and Disabilities

November 01, 2016



Work to do and work already done on disability rights

The Nov. 13 article regarding Department of Justice guidance on providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities (“Feds prod state on disability rights”) provides one more reason for taking strong, focused action to support more people with disabilities in finding competitive jobs in the workforce. The Arc and many disability partners are taking active steps to meet this challenge.

A group of advocates, professionals and providers are backing a legislative package of new support services to help people with disabilities explore, secure and keep a job in the workforce. This package should be a high priority for legislators in the 2017 legislative session.

Outside of the State Capitol, there are new efforts underway to connect with job-seekers with disabilities and their families around the issue of making a working life a part of their plan. The Arc and several partner agencies have held and plan to expand “Work is Possible” workshops statewide to raise expectations that getting a job is possible when using imaginative, creative and person-centered strategies. The Arc Minnesota and its alliance partners are crafting new tools to connect job-seekers with helpful tools, expertise and resources to guide their path to employment — one that builds on interests, strengths and potential contributions, one person at a time.

The low competitive-employment participation rate of Minnesotans with disabilities should give all of us the motivation to connect these job-seekers with business leaders who are looking for employees that make a difference. Let’s continue to move forward together to make this happen.

Don Lavin, St. Paul

The writer is executive director of The Arc Minnesota.

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The article on the targeting of Minnesota’s day-training and employment programs for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act violated the fairness expected from a reputable news organization. Contradictory at best, the article suggested that many feel trapped in such programs, while overlooking that they participate by choice and may opt out at any time.

Some individuals, after gaining skills and experience in a day training program, choose to seek competitive employment, and often do so with ongoing job coaching from day-program providers.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision held that the unjustified segregation of individuals with disabilities was prohibited. The court said public entities are required to provide community-based services to persons with disabilities when services are appropriate, when those affected do not oppose community-based treatment and when community-based services can be reasonably accommodated, considering available resources available and the needs of others receiving services.

The day programs in Minnesota do not violate any of the provisions of the ADA, and generally provide support for individuals who seek to be employed in the community. The very end of the article noted that the Justice Department doesn’t prohibit such programs, but that people must be given “a real opportunity to make an informed choice.” Currently, participants have the opportunity to make such judgments at least annually.

Minnesota’s nonprofit providers of day-training and its employment services believe individuals with disabilities should be free to work in a supportive program environment as part of a program work team or pursue employment in the competitive marketplace. And, these organizations should receive the resources needed to support the right of people with disabilities to live and work as each chooses.

Mike Burke, Roseville

The writer is president of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation.