On Friday January 23rd, Executive Director Allison Wohl, provided APSE’s public testimony to the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities.
This was APSE’s testimony:
My name is Allison Wohl and I am the Executive Director of the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE). We are a national membership association of over 3,000 members with chapters in 40 states. APSE supports Employment First to facilitate the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and community.
APSE would like to congratulate the members of the members of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities that was created by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). We applaud the Committee’s commitment to increasing the workforce participation of people with disabilities. Throughout WIOA, there is language that significantly strengthens the ability of people with disabilities to get the necessary supports and assistance that will allow them to fully participate in the nation’s workforce and escape lives characterized by chronic poverty and isolation. APSE also praises efforts within WIOA to address issues related to sub-minimum wage and segregated employment. There have been chronic and ongoing issues in the oversight and administration of the 14c program.
APSE has clearly and emphatically stated its position on sub-minimum wage and segregated employment and the need to phase it out. Continued reliance on the 14c program is in clear violation of the ADA, Olmstead and of civil rights statutes that apply to other Americans. It is an outdated program rooted in low expectations that that people with disabilities are not capable workers; this policy is discriminatory and exploitative.
APSE is supportive of policy actions regarding sub-minimum wages that contain any of the following elements:
- Placing a time limit on the use of prevocational services on an individual basis
- Ending the placement in a job at sub-minimum wage as an acceptable outcome for transition services under IDEA
- Eliminating the use of sub-minimum wage by new entrants into the adult service system
- Ending the issuance of new special wage certificates for organizations
- Creating an end date by which sub-minimum wage would be discontinued.
- Prohibiting the use of sheltered employment settings as part of transition services prior to age 24.
In addition to these elements, APSE would also be supportive of policy actions that ensure proper monitoring of use of sub-minimum wage, and that the rights of individuals with disabilities are fully respected. Sufficient resources for proper oversight and monitoring of use of sub-minimum wage by the Wage and Hour Division of USDOL, or creation of an alternative entity to do so (possibly including delegating part of this responsibility to individual states) should also be considered.
Rationale for a Phase-Out of 14c Programs
APSE has clearly stated that its view that sub-minimum wage is unnecessary to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
- Bad job matches are the real issue: Per DOL, in order for an individual with a disability to be paid sub-minimum wage, the individual’s disability must impair their capacity to earn wages or productivity for the specific work being performed (not every job). Furthermore, a blanket assumption of sub-minimum wage for all types of work is not permitted, and the regulations specifically note that there may be other types of work or other employment settings where the individual is entitled to the minimum wage.
- Productivity rate is not a fair basis for wages: The argument that the value of an employee should be solely based on a “production rate” is an outdated concept.
- The productivity standard is discriminatory towards people with disabilities: People with disabilities are among the few groups whose pay is based strictly on a productivity rate. It is discriminatory that individuals with disabilities are subjected to such a standard, while most workers are not.
- Sub-minimum wage is at odds with national disability policy: The existence and use of sub-minimum wage is a reflection of viewing people with significant disabilities as incapable of being fully integrated into the general labor force, a view that is at odds with the national disability policies that have developed over the past 40 years.
- Sub-minimum wage is being used to support a more costly service delivery model: Studies indicate that supported employment is significantly less expensive than sheltered workshops.
Employment First as the Primary Service Option
Employment in the general workforce must be the first and preferred outcome in the provision of publicly-funded services for all working age citizens with disabilities, regardless of level of disability.
- Access to “real jobs with real wages” is essential if citizens with disabilities are to avoid lives of poverty, dependence, and isolation.
- It is presumed that all working age adults and youth with disabilities can work in jobs fully integrated within the general workforce, working side-by-side with co-workers without disabilities, earning minimum wage or higher.
- As with all other individuals, employees with disabilities require assistance and support to ensure job success and should have access to those supports necessary to succeed in the workplace.
- All citizens, regardless of disability, have the right to pursue the full range of available employment opportunities, and to earn a living wage in a job of their choosing, based on their talents, skills, and interests.
- Implementation of Employment First principles must be based on clear public policies and practices that ensure employment of citizens with disabilities within the general workforce is the priority for public funding and service delivery.
- Inclusion or exclusion of the specific term “Employment First” does not determine whether a public system or agency has adopted Employment First principles. Such a determination can only be made in examining whether the underlying policies, procedures and infrastructure are designed for and ultimately result in increased integrated employment in the general workforce for citizens with disabilities.
We thank the committee for your time and would like to offer our organization as a resource at any time.
David Mank, the co-chair of the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities and an APSE member, shared with APSE after Allison’s testimony:
“WIOA was one of few pieces of legislation passed by the House and the Senate and signed by the President in 2014. At last we have 7 federal agencies represented at the same table with 17 appointed individual members and with specific work at hand. Perhaps this convergence of focus on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment can play a part in responding to the calls of self- advocates and many others, to do something about the labor participation rate of people with disabilities in this country.”