Today, members of the Board of Directors (Board) of the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN) released a White Paper on the employment of people with disabilities. The paper entitled, “Community Jobs and a Living Wage: Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Pennsylvania” creates awareness about the number of people with disabilities in the workforce, examines laws and systems that have opened the doors to community integrated employment, and makes recommendations for individualized community employment at a living wage.
“This paper comes at a critical time when our state is drafting regulations on Home and Community-Based Services and an Employment First plan for Pennsylvania,” said Lucille Piggott-Prawl, Chair of the DRN Board Public Policy Committee. “The DRN Board has developed a guide map of solutions so that all people with disabilities can explore work and be meaningfully employed in our communities.”
The DRN Board unanimously approved the White Paper at their December quarterly meeting which was held in Harrisburg on Friday, December 4, 2015.
The White Paper points out that while more doors to the workplace have been open to people with disabilities, many more remain shut. The Paper cites a statistic that only 34% of working-age people with disabilities were in the labor force, compared to 75% of those without disabilities.
“The lack of employment at a living wage has severe consequences,” continued Piggott-Prawl. “Pennsylvanians with disabilities are two to three times more likely to live in poverty than those who do not have disabilities. Employment leads to independence, self-sufficiency, and self-worth. All people with disabilities should have a choice to select meaningful employment at a living wage.”
The White Paper illustrates barriers to meaningful employment at a living wage. The barriers include jobs that pay below the minimum wage, work that segregates people with disabilities from the community, lack of funding for state agencies that help people with disabilities prepare for and find jobs in the workforce, lack of opportunities for high school students with disabilities to transition to adult life, and the lack of state regulations and plans that put community integrated employment first.
The DRN Board supports choice in employment and recommends many solutions, including:
- No new sheltered workshops and a moratorium on new referrals to already existing sheltered employment settings by school districts, intermediate units, Department of Human Services, Department of Labor and Industry and others.
- Issuance of an Employment First Executive Order and enactment of Employment First legislation in Pennsylvania.
- Full implementation of federal regulations that require home and community-based services to be provided in integrated settings.
- Study and promotion of best practices and positive models for community employment at a living wage.
click here to read “Community Jobs and a Living Wage: Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Pennsylvania”.
The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN) is the statewide protection and advocacy agency for Pennsylvanians with disabilities. DRN protects and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities so that they may live the lives they choose, free from abuse, neglect, discrimination, and segregation.