Freedom Friday: The Integration Mandate And Employment

In the employment services context, state and local employment service systems provide services and supports that allow people with disabilities to work. Providing those services in an integrated setting enables an individual with a disability to work in a typical job in the community like individuals without disabilities. Such settings are commonly referred to as competitive integrated employment settings.17 An example of a competitive integrated employment setting is work on a full- or part-time basis, at minimum wage or above, at a location where the employee interacts with individuals without disabilities and has access to the same opportunities for benefits and advancement provided to non-disabled workers.

By contrast, segregated settings include settings that are managed, operated, or licensed by a service provider to serve primarily people with disabilities or whose workers are exclusively or primarily individuals with disabilities who are supervised by paid support staff.18 Employment services provided to a person with a disability performing work tasks in a sheltered workshop,19 or to groups of employees with disabilities who routinely work in isolation from non-disabled peers or coworkers or who do not interact with customers or the general public in a manner similar to workers without disabilities performing similar duties, are examples of services provided in a segregated employment setting.

People with disabilities in or at risk of entering segregated employment settings must have the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to work in integrated employment settings. Individuals who have been segregated in sheltered workshops have often been told that they cannot work, frequently have been tracked away from competitive integrated employment or steered to sheltered workshops directly from secondary school settings, have been absent from the competitive labor market for long periods of time, or been given scant information about supported employment services, integrated employment settings, or how individuals with disabilities can work in jobs in the community. Consequently, individuals and their families may hesitate to explore work in an integrated setting, or they may not ask for or be aware of supported employment services.30 Public entities that have traditionally relied on segregated work settings should take affirmative steps to remedy this history and to ensure that individuals have a real opportunity to make an informed choice to work in integrated settings. Affirmative steps may include providing information about the benefits of working in integrated employment settings; providing vocational and situational assessments, career development planning, and discovery in integrated employment settings; arranging peer-to-peer mentoring; facilitating visits, conducting job exploration, interest inventories, and work experiences in integrated job settings; and providing benefits counseling, and access to benefits plans, to explain the impact of competitive work on an individual’s public benefits.

The ADA and the integration mandate have a broad reach; Title II of the ADA covers all services, programs, and activities of state and local government entities. For example, the integration mandate covers residential, employment, and day services provided by a state. If individuals with disabilities are unnecessarily segregated in sheltered workshops for part of the day and in segregated facility-based day programs for other parts of the day or week, such persons may be unnecessarily segregated in both sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs in violation of the ADA and Olmstead. It also violates the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, under the ADA and Olmstead, when such persons are unnecessarily segregated in facility-based day programs for all of their daytime hours.

(image description: The picture appears to be a sheltered workshop setting.  Three people wearing safety glasses are working at a table with drills and computer components.)