In the United States, the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its ensuing regulations and agency changes have causes quite a kerfluffle (yes, I actually used the word kerfluffle). And there are lot of folks out there with detailed analyses of the legislation. And some of which isn’t in legalese.
I’ve included a few resources below, but I thought it would be interesting to just quickly pull out a few points relating to vocational rehabilitation, youth employment, and sheltered workshops. I think here is where there are some significant changes that could have a long-lasting impact for the disability community. Among the key points are:
- Fifteen percent of each state’s public Vocational Rehabilitation funds must be used for transition services like job exploration, career counseling, career assessment, work-based learning experiences, post-secondary opportunities, workplace readiness training, and advocacy training.
- No youth with disabilities can be placed in a sheltered workshop unless all other options for working in an integrated community setting for standard wages, including customized and/or supported employment have been tried. (Although, I do wonder and worry if this will just create something of a generic “checklist” and then the youth may be placed there anyway. Though other than a complete ban, I cannot think of a good alternative).
- Increased coordination of VR offices with schools, the workforce development system, and Medicaid, to better support successful transition.
- Prohibiting schools from contracting with sheltered workshops (which schools have done in the past, working with some of these sub-minimum wage providers calling it “transition services”)
- And lastly, one of the things that I think gives many attorney’s in the disability community heartburn, is that there is language that says that placement in a sub-minimum wage position an option under the Rehabilitation Act. (Historically, it never was listed as an explicit option, which allows for the Judicial system and cases like Olmstead to say that sheltered workshops are not legitimate placements and inherently discriminatory. Now, these workshops actually have statutory “permission” to exist as “good” options for people with disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act.)
WIOA Changes to the Rehabilitation Act:
National Association of Workforce Boards’ WIOA Overview (Not disability-specific): http://www.nawb.org/documents/Publications/WIOA_Overview.pdf
Summary of Major Policies Included in Titles I and IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: http://www.leadcenter.org/system/files/resource/downloadable_version/WIOA_POLICY_BRIEF_10.22.14.pdf
American Network of Community Options and Resources: http://www.ancor.org/sites/default/files/news/ancor_summary_on_wioa_14august2014.pdf