I am writing to express my strong opposition to Section 511 of Title 5 of the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (S. 1356). My main concern is that Section 511 introduces subminimum wage employment into the Rehabilitation Act for the first time ever. Even more importantly, the title of Section 511 is not reflected in the text of Section 511. While the title claims to put limitations on employment of individuals with disabilities at subminimum wage, Subsection a (4) of the bill text allows anyone to enter subminimum wage sheltered employment.
Senator, I have done my homework with respect to the impact of subminimum-wage sheltered employment on people with disabilities. Studies show that people with disabilities who enter sheltered workshops rarely transition into competitive, community-integrated employment. Even though the stated goal of WIA is to ensure community-integrated employment, subminimum wage employment is not a viable path to that goal. Less than five percent of people with disabilities in subminimum wage sheltered employment receive a job in community-integrated employment. Please strike Section 511 from WIA.
Additionally, I am concerned about the proposed move of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) from the Department of Education to the Department of Labor. Just as sheltered workshops focus on what people with disabilities cannot do, the Department of Labor looks at what a person can currently do without taking into consideration their potential to build further skills. The role of the Department of Education is to educate, or teach people new skills. I fear that if RSA is moved to Labor, people with disabilities will not be able to reach their full potential. Furthermore, there is no research that shows that moving RSA to the Department of Labor will be more efficient for people with disabilities. Why not save the money that would be spent to make the move, and put it towards improving the services that RSA provides?
I hope that I can count on your support. I sincerely feel that if you took the time to review Section 511 for yourself that you will realize that people with disabilities will be hindered by the current language in WIA. Please offer an amendment that will strike Section 511 and will remove the language that moves RSA from the Department of Education to the Department of Labor.
I look forward to hearing back from you. I fear that WIA may be coming to the floor soon. Please contact me at Rsloan@nfb.org.
Government Affairs Specialist
“Eliminating Subminimum Wages for People with Disabilities”
National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410)-659-9314 ext 2441
The National Federation of the Blind needs your support to ensure blind children get an equal education; to connect blind veterans with the training and services they need; and to help seniors who are losing vision continue to live independent and fulfilling lives. To make a donation, please go to www.nfb.org.