Raleigh, NC: Disability Rights North Carolina released a new report on segregated employment and the payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities. Released during Disability Employment Awareness Month, the report titled “Sheltered Workshops and the Subminimum Wage in North Carolina: Incentives and Accountability” proposes practical steps to address the warehousing of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in settings that lack meaningful work opportunities. Read full report here.

Thousands of North Carolinians with disabilities spend their days in state-funded facilities where they are segregated from the community and paid less than the minimum wage. Some have spent decades in the same facility, performing work that is repetitive and offers no opportunity to progress to employment in integrated settings. The state’s continued support for such segregation violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates that state-funded services must be provided in the most appropriate integrated setting.

“While we celebrate October as Disability Employment Awareness Month, we need to focus on employment options for people with disabilities year round,” said Disability Rights NC Executive Director Vicki Smith. “And while there are providers who offer quality employment services, we need to change the mindset that says people with disabilities can’t work in meaningful jobs alongside those without disabilities.”

The report details steps the state can and should take to promote integrated employment opportunities. The steps include expanding supported employment services, providing financial incentives for providers to move employees from sheltered work to integrated employment, and addressing the needs of students with significant disabilities for extended support for transitioning to jobs in the community.

Disability Rights NC’s recommendations are based on information gathered from interviews with participants, information gathered from providers, and review of public records.