Disabilities in the Workforce Garners Increased Focus

Recent weeks has seen the subject of individuals with disabilities in the workforce drawing highlighted attention. The Federal government and, more specifically, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has been scrutinizing cases of high-profile violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The use of sub-minimum wages (as provided for in the Fair Labor Standards Act) and their use (and abuses) in the practice sheltered workshops—which has led to Rhode Island scrapping its practice—were the subject of a recent KRA Corporation Blog.

Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, recently spoke to issue of individuals with disabilities in a blog post. In it he stated:

“I’m not naïve about the challenges. As far as we’ve come, still only one in five people with disabilities are participating in the labor force at all. That’s not acceptable.”

And yet, organizations dedicated to equality for individuals with disabilities have been privy to recent reports that are disheartening. A 2013 State of the States in Developmental Disabilities report conducted by the University of Colorado alleged that the Federal government is spending less on individuals with developmental disabilities for the first time in a decade.

The unemployment figures that have recently be reported among individuals with disabilities is equally as disappointing. The 14.7% July figure is up 0.5% from the June percentage of 14.2%.

It is not all bad news. The recent markup and advancement of the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee offers some good news. In it, there is proposed legislation that pays increased attention to the requirements for sub-minimum wages earned among disabled individuals.

It, however, has seen a divided opinion amongst disability advocates with some factions in the disability community asserting that more needs to be done yet.

The difference in opinion hinges around Section 511. It proposes subminimum-wage job placement restrictions through imposing age requirements and levying job training services that would on the surface promote preparation for competitive employment.

However, Disability Scoop, a Developmental Disability news site, asserts that some disability advocates feel that:

the bill does little more than provide a checklist for vocational rehabilitation agencies that could ultimately put more individuals at risk for low-wage employment.”

Opportunity is something that all those who seek it should be fairly and equitably exposed to, and afforded to all those interested in becoming productive members of the U.S. workforce. This is something that KRA Corporation remains steadfastly committed to promoting.

KRA Corporation advocates for all sectors of the workforce, regardless of hurdles, impediments and limiting factors. Our on-the-ground initiatives and strategic approach to developing programs at a policy level helps the KRA Corporation team prepare workers for the U.S. workforce and, whenever possible, arms them with the skills to achieve full potential.

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