The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), through its ePolicyWorks initiative, is hosting this national online dialogue—open until June 21, 2019—to gather perspectives on Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The goal of this online dialogue is to capture trends, experiences with transition, and visions for the future from those "on the ground." Information gleaned from the comments will then be summarized to provide an overview of Section 14(c) at the state and national levels to ODEP.
What is 14 (c) ?
14 (c) refers to a sheltered environment for people with disabilities. At Inroads to Opportunities, 207 employees work in hand packaging and assembly services. They come to work Monday-Friday 8:30am-3pm and receive an hourly wage for their level of productivity. We believe in keeping this option available for those who need this type of job to succeed in the workplace.
Please share your ideas and comments, perspectives or experiences around Section 14(c), please contact the Office of Disability Employment Policy at 202-693-7880 or ePolicyWorks@dol.gov for further assistance.
For more information on 14 (c) and how it directly affects employment options, check out our recent blog post here:
Meet Anthony J.
December 2018 we featured Anthony as our final employment spotlight of the year. He has excelled at his position at Walgreens and remains one of 120 people working in competitive integrated employment that Inroads team provides employment services.
This weeks Blog Post is going to highlight ten barriers to employment that people with disabilities face on a daily basis. The purpose of this blog is to start the conversation. Our goal is an inclusive world.
What will it take to get there?
BARRIERS TO EMPLOYMENT:
Have you ever heard a business owner say, “I have a business to run here,” in regards to employing people with disabilities? Unfortunately, for many business owners there is a level of skepticism and doubt that comes with the decision to hire a person or persons with disabilities. “Is there a level of risk to hiring someone with a disability?”
At Inroads to Opportunities we work to alleviate the stress of employers who are uncertain about these issues.
For people with physical disabilities, environment is a major factor to whether or not a employment site is accessible. This ranges from wheelchair ramps, elevators and everything in between. If a business is not located on the ground floor and the building doesn’t have a working elevator, a person who relies on crutches or a wheelchair cannot work there.
3. Lack of Assistive Technologies
Employees with visual impairments or hearing loss need assistive technologies in order to succeed in the workplace. This also includes closed captioning on training videos and increased font size for those with visual limitations. If a job requires a person to use a phone and computer it needs to be designed to accommodate employees with these needs.
We could fill an entire blog post with the amount of stereotypes that surround employment for people with disabilities. As an agency that both hires people with disabilities and helps people to get hired externally; we have experienced all types of stereotyping.
Here is a an example:
A job is posted that might be a great fit for one of our candidates. We have an employment specialist contact the hiring manager and explain that we are working with an individual who has a disability. More often than not, we are informed that the job has already been filled.
After a brief wait we have someone else contact the same number and inquire about the same job position. There are times when the second call results in completely different information (explanation how to apply online or in person).
Does stereotyping exist? Absolutely.
5. Health Insurance
Many parents share the same fear that their son or daughter will lose their health insurance. There is two ends to the spectrum with this topic. People who receive SSDI through Medicaid and people who receive medicare for general health insurance. There are very few circumstances where entry level employees are eligible to receive health insurance from an employer. For the majority of people with disabilities, not having health insurance is not an option. Routine checkups and doctors visits are vital.
People who receive SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) cannot exceed a monthly income of more than $500 per month without being in jeopardy of losing coverage. With that being said, employees who exceed $500 per month move into a trial work period, which can be up to 30 months. This is considered gainful employment. If an individual is able to sustain gainful employment, they are no longer eligible for SSDI.
6. The Revolving Door
In many businesses like retail and food services, management positions constantly change. The assistant manager of XYZ food store that hires one of our employment candidates may only be with that location for a limited amount of time. People are sometimes relocated or move onto other employment opportunities. This can be a problem for employees with disabilities.
For example, a manager who is patient and understands the needs of an employee with disabilities can be replaced by someone who is closed minded and not as acceptant. Businesses can be a revolving door and for people who struggle especially with social anxiety and self-confidence, this is yet another barrier.
7. Minimum Wage
How will a $15 per hour minimum wage change the way small businesses operate across our country? For the skeptical business owner or hiring manager they will be faced with new challenges that will force them to make difficult staffing decisions. How will this directly affect people with disabilities who apply for a job? We are just starting to see this new reality play out.
Did you know that if an employee is having trouble completing their work they legally need to be provided the necessary accommodations? This topic brings us back to environment as a barrier as well. Inclusive adjustments must be made to accommodate employees of all abilities. It’s not just good business practice, its the law.
9. Staff Training
How many businesses are fully trained to understand the various types of disabilities and expectations in the workplace? What are the expectations of hiring an employee with autism? Someone who is visually impaired? Someone who lives with chronic illness? Are management trained to handle a situation when an employee is susceptible to seizures?
An inclusive workplace should include a policy and procedures manual/ trainings for employees with (and without) disabilities.
The next time you walk into a fast food restaurant, notice the new digital kiosks where you can order your food, pay and wait for it without having to talk with a cashier. Business analysts project that over the next 10-15 years employment as we know it will be transformed by automation.
“The workers most vulnerable are in transportation, production, food preparation, and office administration, which, combined, make up about 36 million jobs, or 25% of the total jobs in the US today. In these occupations, roughly 70% of tasks were considered routine and predictable, prime targets to be managed by machines. The most vulnerable were “packaging and filling machine operators” (100% exposure to automation), food preparation workers (91%), payroll and timekeeping clerks (87%), and light-truck and delivery drivers (78%) .“ - Michael J. Coren
What are some of the barriers to employment that you have experienced?
Share your thoughts and comments below.
Written by: Bryan Hansen
#employment #incusion #accesibility
Over the past several years there has been a growing misinterpretation of Sheltered Workshops in the United States.
How does society perceive this option?
Here are some of the headlines that have sparked the conversation:
“Lawmakers work to end subminimum wages for people with disabilities.”
“Many People With Disabilities Are Being Paid Way Below the Minimum Wage, and It’s Perfectly Legal.”
“New Bill would phase out subminimum wage model for people with disabilities.”
In this weeks blog post we would like to educate our readers on what 14C is and why this is an important option for our population.
Inroads to Opportunities is a Vocational Rehabilitation Center located in Roselle, New Jersey. We work with individuals with disabilities to help prepare them for a life of wellness, independence and employment. Inroads provides transition from classroom to career for high school students with disabilities, employment readiness training, evaluations, mental health partial care to individuals recovering from chronic illness, resume boosting certification programs (Servsafe, Janitorial, Osha Forklift), Employment services for 120+ people working in the community and Extended Employment (Assembly Services Division). Our agency also owns Railside Cafe in Fanwood, NJ; an integrated employment option for people with disabilities who are qualified to work in the fast paced restaurant business.
Since 1959 we started our journey with 4 program participants. The Occupational Center of Union County was started with the mission to provide vocational training to people with disabilities who needed a place to go, which wasn’t limited to the four walls in their homes.
What is 14 C and why are lawmakers fighting to remove this option?
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 created a provision known as 14C. F.L.S.A. permitted employers to pay less than minimum wage to workers with disabilities in order to help them gain entry into the workforce. Employees with disabilities in sheltered workshops are paid a commensurate wage based upon a time study. Wages are based on productivity.
Lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about phasing out 14C and the sheltered workshops, deeming them an unethical option for people with disabilities.
“I don’t think most Americans know that this kind of discriminatory treatment is perfectly legal, but I’ll bet that if they did, they’d agree that individuals with disabilities ought to be paid fairly for their work.” Senator Elizabeth Warren.
In an article posted in 2018, David Ordan stated, “As such, it is a myth to say that paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and keeps them out of the general employment market, as claimed by Senator Warren D-Mass.) at a Senate Health Committee Hearing in Oct. 2017. She continues to argue this point to this day.
Furthermore, it is not true that employers across the country are using this (commensurate wage) waiver to acquire cheap labor instead of paying minimum wage for the same work and performance as able-bodied workers.
The truth is that the vast majority of “employers” making use of this waiver are in fact, sheltered workshops, rather than private employers. Based on April, 2015 data from Wages and Hours Division of the Department of Labor, 2,820 entities in the United States hold Section 14(c) subminimum wage certificates. 89 percent are sheltered workshops. “
What are the consequences of phasing out 14 C?
There is a one-size-fits-all perspective that by removing the sheltered workshop model it will increase competitive employment options for people with disabilities. Unfortunately this could not be any further from the truth.
There are thousands of individuals with disabilities who work in sheltered employment across the United States. Many of them would be forced to return home and await an alternative employment service or day program. The unintended consequences are countless because not only does this diminish employment options, it affects the participants self esteem and confidence that is so fragile in the lives of our most vulnerable population.
“To cite one example, Maine ordered a phase-out of disabled workshops starting in 2008. Two-thirds of those onetime employees were unable to find other paid positions, according to a June 2015 study by George Washington University, and enrollment in daycare and other programs soared to 3,178, from 550. “ - Ordan, The Hill, 2018.
A Measure of Success: Every Job has Dignity!
Phasing out 14C is resulting in thousands of people moving into day programs that are not employment focused. While there are many social benefits to Day Habilitation, it in a sense removes an employment setting and replaces it with a program that creates no source of income for its participants.
Sheltered Workshops were never designed to be a dead end employment option, however for a percentage of our population this is a job that they can handle in a safe environment.
It is a measure of success to come home with a paycheck, make friends at our agency, build self-esteem, develop relationships and learn about the world of work. This is unfortunately the bigger picture that is not being represented.
At Inroads we give our program participants the confidence that they can pursue competitive community employment. Each person is different and faces a separate set of challenges. Sometimes physical, sometimes mental and often both.
Lawmakers are pushing for “Raise the Wage,” which will force employers to move to a $15 minimum wage by 2024. This is yet another barrier to employment for people with disabilities.
Automation in the workplace is also replacing the workforce with robotic technology. Companies are investing in these technologies to increase profitability and reduce labor costs.
How will this affect our population?
We would like you to weigh in on your thoughts on our Blog post this week. Please comment and share this post.
Written by Bryan Hansen
#wearethecommunity #myjobmychoice #lookatthebiggerpicture
In 2018, Inroads to Opportunities helped bring A-Team to New Jersey.
We joined forces with 12 states including Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arkansas, Delaware, South Dakota and Utah to help this grassroots movement. With the goal of uniting persons with diverse abilities and their family members, Inroads took part in a Social Media storm, which took place on April 24th, 2018.
We asked our 250+ workforce to wear green and we filmed them chanting, “my work my choice,” to blast out on Social Media.
Vocational Rehabilitation Centers across the country are fighting to keep 14C sheltered workshops an available option for people with disabilities. The A-Team movement is vital in fighting for employment options for our population.
Inroads to Opportunities will be a major voice for A-Team New Jersey and will continue to educate our participants and their families through action alerts and social media.
Organize efforts to support individuals with diverse abilities and their rights.
Educate Government Officials
Promote the accomplishments and everyday obstacles overcome by persons with diverse abilities and their family members to ensure their authentic stories are shared throughout the community
Provide both peer support and organizational feedback to meet the current and future needs of persons with diverse abilities.
Network Grassroots Advocacy Website
Learn and share Knowledge
Forums and team meetings
We hope you join us in the effort to increase employment options for people with disabilities. You can be the voice that helps change lives of our most vulnerable population.
Written by: Bryan Hansen
SAVE THE DATE!!!
With your help, we can surpass our $17,300 net result from Casino Night 2018.
2019 marks our 60th year in business under our legal name Occupational Center of Union County. In 1959 our agency started with the purpose of creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities through vocational training and employment support. From our humble beginnings we have grown to support 400 individuals with disabilities per year.
In a world that too often counts out individuals for what they are not capable of doing; Inroads teaches people with disabilities that anything is possible with hard work and the right support system.
Our Casino Night Fundraiser this year will have a James Bond Theme. Since this is our 60th year providing community supports we will celebrate with a diamond jubilee. Since they say, “diamonds are forever,” our vision is that our agency will be here for many years to come.
Scenes from last years event:
See You On October 18th, 2019!
Mark your calendars!
Written by Bryan Hansen
#diamond #jubilee #ocuc #makingadifference
This week marked our 5th annual ‘Inroads Got Talent’ showcase.
Over the course of two action packed days we featured 34 performers, which ranged from singers, dancers, musicians and poets.
Every year impresses us with the amount of talent and creativity our program participants showcase, however this year was exceptional.
Scenes from our showcase:
We are extremely proud of everyone who performed for this years event. It was particularly inspiring to see how many of our program participants were so happy and comfortable expressing their artistic sides.
Thank you to Rubi, Krissy & Steve for helping run this event smoothly!
Written by Bryan Hansen
Every week our Inroads Newsletter Group has the opportunity to write content for upcoming internal newsletters. This past week we asked each one of our writers to touch on why they feel Inroads is important to them.
Here is what they said:
(Please note, some of our participants asked to remain anonymous).
“I need to live in a multilayered community. There is the community of my home family, my community of Alcoholics Anonymous and of course my community of Inroads. I need a variety of groups that I belong to. Each group to address different needs in my life. Each different group reflects from different needs in my life.”
“Inroads is a great place to be. I learned how to live with my illness instead of fighting with it. Also useful skills for just living day to day. I’m also given an opportunity to make some pocket cash as well. I hope this place stays for a long time.”
“Why I like to work here at Inroads is because it is positive to work here and share my own ideas with the public. Inroads is a great opportunity to belong and participate. To be social and learn to be independent, work and share.”
“Inroads is a great place to be. A lot of people to talk to instead of staying home. Also I have good counselors who help me out when I need help. They have great workshops to work in, a cafeteria where the food is great, good groups, which help you out like gym class and many areas to work at in program. It is very hard to work in integrated employment, which is why we have this support.They also have good job coaches.”
“I like Inroads because they make me happy. I have good counselors who help me when I need help. I have a great workshop and love the groups.”
“I have to go to program at Inroads because I need experience. When I went to get my taxes done, Wayne (tax aid) asked me if I want to support the workshops and keep them open at Inroads. I said yes. I like Self-Advocacy, Newsletter Group, Cooking Group and Bingo. Inroads helps me enjoy my hobbies, which are reading, writing singing and acting.”
“Sheltered employment can be remedial but it leads to stability. The participants who move on to competitive employment go on to be quite successful and secure.”
“Inroads is very positive. The jobs adjust to the skill of the participant and our supervisors take the time to explain the process of the working products.”
“I like to come to Inroads because I enjoy each of my groups. I like to discuss the different topics in our groups and express how they make me feel. I enjoy doing exercises in the gym including the tapes from Jillian Michaels, Richard Simmons, Zumba and walking on the treadmill. I enjoy doing work in the workshops and helping my friends complete a job.”
“Hello my name is Eric and I want to tell you why I love to work at Inroads to Opportunities. I love the different jobs that they send us from different companies. It’s cool when we help each other with the job and learn how to do it. I think it’s great that there’s so many people our program helps out. Some people learn tasks in a snap. Some need more time learning stuff. I love the special groups we have here like newsletter. My favorite parties are the Inroads Halloween and Christmas Dance.”
Written by Bryan Hansen
Thursday March 14th, the New Jersey Senate successfully passed S-3468, establishing a task force on Maximizing Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities.
With the help of Vocational Rehabilitation Centers across New Jersey and guidance from Accses New Jersey, Inroads was able to help shape the efforts which led to this legislation. New Jersey Ranks 11th in population but 20th in Vocational Rehabilitation Funding.
S-3468 Sponsored by Assemblywoman Carol A. Murphy (Burlington) and Assemblyman Robert J. Karabinchak (Middlesex) the Partisan Bill passed with a vote of 35 to 0 and now makes its way to the Assembly.
“The purpose of the task force is to study the problem of unemployment and underemployment among individuals with disabilities, review relevant, available programs within the State of New Jersey, as well as in other states, and issue a report which offers a vision and provides viable recommendations on how the State can increase opportunities, expand employment readiness and training programs, and offer greater employment supports, for individuals with disabilities. “
Full Text can be found at : https://legiscan.com/NJ/text/A5105/2018
In 2015, it was reported that 10.3% of New Jersey’s population of 9 million lived with at least one disability.
In Union County alone 63.2% of people with disabilities are unemployed. There are an estimated 250,000 students across the garden state who have a registered disability and an alarming 250,000 residents who are not receiving services.
Inroads will be helping to lead an advocacy movement called A-Team New Jersey. We not only teach our population how to advocate for themselves but help educate our base through action alerts published on our social media pages, website and mailers.
“Because tens of thousands of people with disabilities have demonstrated the capacity to do competitive work when given the opportunity, their desire for the dignity of a job and a paycheck must not be ignored; and
It is therefore appropriate to establish a task force is to study the problem of unemployment and underemployment among New Jersey citizens with disabilities, review existing programs in this and other states, and issue a report with recommendations to increase opportunities, expand employment readiness and training programs, and increase employment supports for those individuals.” -S-3468
Written by: Bryan Hansen
March 13th, 2019
Inroads to Opportunities provides a wide variety of programs for adults and teens with disabilities. We take pride in providing options for our community. In 2018 we kicked off our Day Hab Program, which is an inclusive day program for individuals with disabilities. Day Hab provides a social outlet that mixes educational experiences with a variety of community based activities.
Last year our participants had the opportunity to visit the Roselle Fire Department where they learned about Fire Safety and got a demonstration from our local firemen.
2018 Day Hab Community Trips Included: Liberty State Park, New Jersey Ecological Society where they learned about the various animal species that lives in NJ, Shop Rite for a Nutrition Learning Activity, Somerset Patriots Baseball Stadium and created an Inroads Garden with fresh vegetables. The Day Hab even performed “Beauty School Dropout.,” from Grease during the 2018 Inroads talent show.
In just a short amount of time we have seen the positive results that this program has on social skills. Program participants spend a percentage of their day at Inroads with the Day Hab team in replacement of Extended Employment (sheltered workshops).
For the most part, the participants who are enrolled in Day Hab would not have had the opportunity to socialize with their peers outside of their work area. It’s encouraging to see an increase in social interaction and an improvement in communication skills.
Program Coordinator Tameka Burwell and Director of Inroads to Wellness Letty Esquivel have been encouraged by the positive results they have seen with Day Hab so far. Inroads staff members have been impressed by social skills that certain program participants have improved upon during the course of the year.
We look forward to growing this program and bringing more updates from Day in 2019.
Written by: Bryan Hansen
March 5th, 2019
If you have landed on our Blog we would like to welcome you to our first ever Blog post!
Inroads To Opportunities is an amazing place where 400+ individuals with disabilities come to learn about the world of work, wellness and life skills to achieve independence.
We have 20+ groups that meet every week that range in topic. Our Newsletter Group focuses on current events, holidays and advocacy. Our Participants Advisory Committee also focuses on event planning and advocacy.
Our Blog posts will feature some of the talented writers from our Inroads Tribune and help educate about changes happening legislatively that affect the disability world.
Here is a beautiful piece written by Stanley N.
‘Sonnet For Inroads’
When we were kids and had a lot to grow
The other kids got apples, grapes, and pears
They handed me a lemon don't ya know
I wanted something sweet like one of theirs
And all those kids received the tasty treat
But none of them would even give a taste
I was alone and crying in the street
And all my happiness had got misplaced
Till angels came and walked me through a door
To be with other lemon heads like me
And happiness I had not known before
Was now a real life opportunity
Now Inroads is the place for which I prayed
We make the wide world's best damned lemonade
Written by: Bryan Hansen