DEPEW, N.Y. (WIVB)- For some, it’s the only job they’ve ever had, and only job they can get.
Every day, people with developmental disabilities show up for work at Southeast Works in Depew, N.Y. and prepare products to be sold in stores like WalMart or Office Depot. But what makes this ‘sheltered workshop’ different is that all the workers have a disability and don’t work alongside the non-disabled.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a plan to phase out sheltered workshops like this to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that ensures everyone the right to work in an integrated setting, according to a report from a Depew, New York TV station.
New York State Sen. Robert Ortt, Republican-North Tonawanda, hosted a public hearing about the issue at the University at Buffalo’s Center for Tomorrow.
Speaker after speaker tried answer the big question about what will happen to most of the clients if the State actually does close sheltered workshops, like Southeast Works in Depew, where people with developmental disabilities prepare products to be sold at WalMArt of Office Depot, but they do it for less than minimum wage.
Paying people with disabilities less than the minimum wage for working is also legal in Michigan.
“We should give them the opportunity to advance competitive employment elsewhere so that they can not just sustain themselves, but flourish.” said Jennifer Monthie of Disability Rights New York. She would rather the State programs work individually with each client to help them get jobs that are suited for them in the traditional workplace.
“You’re gonna find people that are gonna stay employed longer, they’re gonna advance in the their employment because they’re in an area where they can shine.” said Monthie.
But not all of these clients can flourish outside, like Tim Powers, who is 56 and has a disability.
“If you offered him a one dollar bill and a five dollar bill, he wouldn’t know which one is worth more.” said his father Martin Powers. “He lives in a group home because we’re gonna die, and he has to have a place to live, and he now has a place to live and a place to work and we’ve spent our entire life working this whole process out and now you wanna say, “Nope that’s not good.” well how are we going to deal with this in the future, I don’t know.”
The State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities plans to put out guidelines in late October that will give these families a better idea of what the transition will be like as the sheltered workshops are phased out by the year 2020.