Sheltered workshops are going away due to a Supreme Court decision. Many advocates say "hurray, it's long overdue."
Others say, "perhaps not so fast".
It may surprise you to know, if you are a regular reader of this blog, that I am in the second camp.
But first, what is a sheltered workshop? And what is wrong with the concept?
Actually, I think there is a lot wrong with it, but getting rid of them may not be the best thing.
One definition of sheltered workshop is " an organization or environment that employs people with disabilities separately from others."
When Bil lived in downstate New York, he worked in a sheltered workshop environment. He made less than minimum wage - much less. He worked part time, was paid by the piece and was transported to and from the job door to door (he also had to pay for that transportation from that meager paycheck.)
How did Bil end up at that type of job? It was because he didn't succeed in more mainstream jobs. It was long ago, and he wasn't given very much support at all. No job coaches. He was left to fend for himself when a manager he liked was no longer there and the replacement (apparently) verbally abused him.
Bil walked off another job.
At the sheltered workshop, if he was sick, he didn't work. If he wanted to take the day off, he did. He was never taught the skills we neurotypical take for granted.
So, what happens to people who have been in the sheltered workshop system for 25 or more years? It's nice to say you will integrate them into the least restrictive job setting they can handle, but, based on years of experience dealing with "the system" I know that there isn't going to be the funding for it.
So, while the "system" pays lip service, people like Bil are in serious danger of falling through cracks.
In point of fact, Bil has not worked one day since he moved from downstate up to where he lives now - going on two years. Why? Because of the sheltered workshop phaseout, the workshops up here were not taking on any new employees. Bil was asked if he wanted to work, and he said he was interested in rounding up carts at a supermarket.
But the next time they asked, Bil said he didn't want to work.
And now, the local workshop (the one he may have worked at, given the chance) will be closing on September 30.
As an advocate, I ask: Will Bil ever work again? Will there be a job coach or any support for him? Or will he be unemployed for the rest of his life?
I suspect, for him, and given the dangerous budget cuts now in the works, it will be the latter.