People with disabilities need full and inclusive access to meaningful employment opportunities.

Many North Carolinians with disabilities are being left out of the economic mainstream. State policies continue to subject many people with disabilities to unfair wages, isolation, and limited work expectations and options. Employment services also continue to fail people with disabilities who aspire to obtain meaningful employment.

 

Disability Rights North Carolina released a report highlighting these inequities. The report was prepared following a two-year
investigation into employment services in the state, including interviews with hundreds of workers with disabilities who are paid less than the federal and state minimum wage.

“The majority of workers with disabilities who earn subminimum wages are not aware of other work and training opportunities and are often dissuaded from trying to obtain better employment. In general, the employment-service system that is supposed to help prepare people with disabilities for community employment is too complex and not explained well-enough for them to effectively use,” explains Christopher Hodgson, Attorney at DRNC.

 

Silhouette of people in a line, including children, adults, elderly, wheelchair user, adults holding childen, and non visibly disabled

 

The report comes on the heels of important developments in this area. Disability Rights North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services signed a memorandum of understanding to improve the delivery of employment services for North Carolinians with disabilities in February 2019. As part of this agreement, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services will reform its policies, procedures, and practices to phase out segregated work training and support only fully-competitive and integrated settings by October 1, 2021.

“The days of placing people with disabilities in segregated workshops and preparing them only for a lifetime of low wages must end. North Carolinians with disabilities deserve training in integrated job settings that prepare them for economic stability. With this agreement to phase out segregated employment training in the Vocational Rehabilitation agency, the Department has signified its commitment to improving employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities in North Carolina.” said Virginia Knowlton Marcus, Chief Executive Officer of DRNC.

The recommendations must be addressed to meet the employment needs of people with disabilities. DRNC is committed to serve in its role as the protection and advocacy agency of North Carolina. The agency will continue to work to ensure that the voices and input of people with disabilities are illuminated as the state moves towards full inclusion and equity in the workplace.

Read the full report here.

Questions and comments concerning the report can be directed to communications@disabilityrightsnc.org