TASH is committed to increasing the employment rate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and eliminating federally sanctioned sub-minimum wages. – TASH National Agenda, Employment

A Values Perspective

Employment is an essential component of life in the community, and leads to greater independence and opportunity for people with disabilities. Yet despite substantive research and many years of best practices, the general public and the business community have yet to embrace the concept that all people – regardless of perceived limitations – have competencies with employment potential and can be contributors in the workplace.

Employment connects us to full participation and inclusion in our communities. It fosters a sense of self-worth, opens opportunities for social growth and leads to greater independence. Because all people have the right to work, we call for the development of individualized and integrated employment opportunities for all people with disabilities, with supports tailored to their individual abilities and needs.

Employing people with significant disabilities also makes good sense for business, as well as the overall economic health of our nation. Research and experience show that employees, once in place, are loyal, long-term and dependable. They report higher job satisfaction and less leave time, and companies hiring workers with significant disabilities report higher morale and improved workplace culture.

For the first time in many years, there is a strong effort to revisit Section 14(C) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which permits sub-minimum wages to be paid to workers with disabilities. This is based on the perpetration of the productivity fallacy, a business model that presumes one’s worth is inextricably linked to a measurable output. This “separate but equal” approach limits the opportunity for workers with disabilities to ever expect to earn a livable wage and work in community workplaces.

TASH Resolutions: Integrated Employment

What We’re Doing

Change is underway in the field of employment for people with disabilities. Many states have developed Employment First policies or resolutions. Federal agencies are working toward more alignment on an Employment First agenda, which means public funds should support integrated employment as a priority outcome.

TASH applauds the Justice Department settlement agreements with two states, Rhode Island and Oregon, to change practices and emphasize integrated employment over sheltered workshops. In their Letter of Findings to the State of Rhode Island, the Justice Department found: “Individuals in segregated non-work day programs are cut off from earnings or interacting with nondisabled peers altogether, even though many of these individuals can and want to work and receive integrated day services in the community. Such unjustified daily segregation firmly places many of the benefits of community life beyond the reach of people with disabilities, even though they are residing in the community. This segregation also deprives the greater community of the benefit of such persons’ participation in the everyday life of the community.” (Letter of Findings, Samuels to DeSisto, January 6, 2014)

TASH influences employment policy through its membership with the Collaboration to Promote Self Determination and its relationships with administrative agencies and Congress. We believe that a responsible public policy agenda presumes that all citizens with significant disabilities can work and participate in competitive, integrated employment. Toward that end, we are working on the following priorities:

  • Supporting the Transitioning toward Excellence Achievement & Mobility (TEAM) legislation
  • Supporting legislative efforts to phase out the payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities (including but not limited to the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act.)
  • Pushing for inclusion of customized employment strategies as allowable activities within local and state workforce investment programs in the recruitment of citizens with disabilities as part of the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, and for the rebalancing of federal resources away from sheltered work to supporting integrated employment outcomes.

TASH’s publications, online training and regional and national conferences are used to influence practice and expand integrated employment for people with the most significant support needs. We provide leadership in the area of transition to employment and continue to develop Customized Employment nationally through the national conference, articles, webinars, and grant-funded projects. TASH honors the outstanding contributions of a leader in the field by awarding the Marc Gold Award each year.

Stay up to date on the work of TASH and its members by visiting our blog. And find additional tools and resources on Employment by visiting the TASH Resource Library.