About changes coming to NC employment services

In North Carolina, over a thousand people with disabilities work in isolated, “segregated settings,” also called sheltered workshops. In these settings, workers with disabilities are typically separated from non-disabled workers. Most pay workers far below the minimum wage (sub-minimum wages). Many disabled people work five days a week and still earn less than a hundred dollars in a month. The workshops are supposed to train people with disabilities to work in the community for market or “competitive” wages. Studies show this kind of job training is ineffective in finding disabled people jobs in their community or teaching them useful job skills to compete in the marketplace.

A federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the right of people with disabilities to work in the community in jobs for honest wages just like non-disabled people. Because of this law, DRNC, the Center for Public Representation (CPR) and NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently agreed that DHHS will stop paying for services in segregated workshops. Instead, DHHS will help workers with disabilities find better paying jobs in their communities if they choose.

View the easy-to-read version.

Summary of the agreement

Here is a list of changes DHHS agreed to make to help you find a job in the community:

1. DHHS will contact you if you worked in a workshop in the last two years to tell you about new services to help you find work and give you an opportunity to try them out.

2. DHHS will spend its money on services that help you get and keep a job in the community. Your job will pay at least minimum wage. Here are some of the new or better services that DHHS will offer to help you find a job in the community:

  • Supported employment – Someone will help you find work and can go with you to work as long as you need to learn the job and do it well. They can also help your boss learn what you need from them to do your job well.
  • Customized employment – If you cannot do all parts of the job, someone can help you find a boss who will let you do only the parts of the job you are good at.
  • College education – Available when you need more schooling to get the job you want.
  • Discovery – Someone will help you learn about your interests and figure out what kind of job you may be interested in doing.
  • Transportation – Someone will help you figure out how you will get back and forth to work.
  • Assistive technology – If you need technology to help you do your job, it can be provided for you.
  • Benefits counseling – Someone who can help you understand how the money you make at your job may affect your social security check and health care.

3. DHHS will eventually stop paying for the old services in the workshop once the much better services are all in place and nobody wants to use the old services anymore.

These are big changes, and it will take some time to make them. You may continue working in the workshop until you have had time to try out the new services and decide for yourself if you like working in the community. We expect that no one will want to use the old services by July 1, 2026. But you do not have to wait until then! You can start looking for a job in the community at any time. It is up to you. The goal of the agreement is for everyone with disabilities who wants to work to have competitive integrated employment with the services in place that they need to be successful.

View agreement

Important dates to remember

July 1, 2023 – Everyone working in workshops or who got ADVP or ADVP-like services in a workshop after January 1, 2020 will have an employment assessment. People who want to work in the community will have a career development plan to identify the services and supports they need to find and hold on to competitive integrated employment. 

July 1, 2026 – We expect no one will want ADVP or ADVP-like services in segregated settings anymore and all employment services will be integrated in the community.

DHHS will help the workshops get ready for these changes so that they can provide the new and better services. The workshops that want to help people find and hold jobs in the community will get technical assistance and training on how to do it.

Working in the community

You might not know what you are good at or be worried that you will not be able to do a job in the community. These new services will make sure you get the help you need to get a job and keep it. You will work with people who do not have disabilities at your job. And you will be paid at least the minimum wage, just like everyone else. This kind of work is called competitive integrated employment.

FAQs about DHHS’ plan

Why is DHHS making changes to employment services?

People in segregated settings usually get paid sub-minimum wage. Many people work 5 days a week and still earn less than $100 a month. They are also kept apart from people without disabilities. There are laws protecting the right of people with disabilities to work in the community in the same kinds of jobs as non-disabled people. DHHS has agreed to help people in segregated settings find and keep better jobs in the community.

What changes is DHHS making to services in segregated work settings?

DHHS is planning to help everyone working in segregated settings, like ADVP, get jobs in the community. If you receive services in ADVP settings, you will soon get new services to help you:

  • Figure out your job skills.
  • Discover different jobs you are good at and would like.
  • Develop a plan that is unique to you.
  • Find and keep a job in the community.

When will these changes happen?

Your services are not going to change right away. You may continue using your old services and working in the workshop until the new services are all in place,  you have had lots of time to try out the services, and you come to see for yourself that you would rather have a job in the community earning at least a minimum wage.

What new services will I get?

Most people will receive supported or customized employment services. But you can also get supported internship services, help with self-employment, or more schooling. Your services will be designed for you based on the job you want and what you will need to be able to do that job.

How long will I receive the new services?

Someone will help you plan for how long you need new services. They will look at how much help you need to get and keep the new job you want. If you need long-term help, you can get it through your LME/MCO.

What if I want to keep my ADVP services?

We expect that no one will want to use the old services by July 1, 2026. But you do not have to wait until then! You can start looking for a job in the community at any time. It is up to you.

What if I don’t want to work in the community?

No one will make you get a job in the community. But you will be given information about what it is like to work in the community. You will be asked why you do not want a job in the community. If you are scared or nervous about working in the community, you can meet other people with disabilities who have the kind of job you want. They can answer your questions about working in the community. If you are still sure you do not want to work in the community, someone will tell you about other services that you can sign up for.

What will happen to the people who provided my current services?

People who are providing services in segregated settings can get training about how to help people find and hold on to jobs in the community. They will get paid to provide these new and better services in the community.

Will I get more information about the changes that are coming?

Yes. You will get a letter from DHHS explaining the upcoming changes to employment services. DHHS will have meetings to explain the new services to you and to the people providing your services. You will be able to ask questions at the meetings. DRNC and DHHS will keep updating our websites with more information about these changes.

I have more questions. Who can answer them?

You may call DRNC at 919-856-2195. Select option 3 to talk to an advocate. You can also ask for legal help online, or you can visit DRNC’s employment resources for more information.  

Important definitions

Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE)

Competitive integrated employment is when you are paid minimum wage or more for your work. It is when you receive the same benefits and chance for promotions as your non-disabled coworkers.

  • Your job will pay you at least minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour in North Carolina
  • Your job will be in the community
  • The people you work with will include people with and without disabilities
  • You will have the same benefits as everyone else at your job, like health insurance and paid time off. (This may depend on if you work full time and if your employer offers these benefits.)
  • You will have the same chance for promotions, pay increases, and other opportunities to advance in your job as your co-workers.

View information from DHHS about competitive integrated employment


Discovery is part of supported employment services and allows you to visit, watch, and talk to people working in different kinds of jobs. It helps you learn about different kinds of jobs you can have. It will help you make an informed decision about where you want to work and what kind of job you want.

Employment assessment and career development plan

An employment assessment describes your strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Someone will use it to help you figure out what jobs you may want to explore during discovery. A career development plan describes if you want a new job, what new job you want, what must happen for you to get and keep the new job, and who will assist you with getting and keeping this new job.

Informed Choice

You will be making a choice about what kind of job you want in the community and the services that will help you get that job. You will be given information about the different kinds of jobs that people have in your community. People will answer your questions to help you decide what kind of job you want, such as the amount of money people make who have different kinds of jobs and what hours of the day they typically work.

If you need help getting a job, you will be told about the different kinds of services that are available to help you find work. Any time you are making a decision, you will get help understanding all the different things that could happen based on the decision you make.

DHHS will make sure that you also get all the information you need to find a community job that is right for you. If you learn about all the different kinds of jobs you could do in your community and decide you don’t want to work, that is up to you. 

Learn more about segregated employment and sheltered workshops


Moving into the Economic Mainstream: DRNC’s 2019 report on the state of employment services for people with disabilities in NC.

The Writing on the Wall: Nearing the End of Sheltered and Segregated Employment: The National Disability Rights Network’s (NDRN) 2016 report on segregated employment in the United States.

Segregated and Exploited: NDRN’s 2011 report on the failure of the disability service system to provide quality work.

Beyond Segregated and Exploited: NDRN’s 2012 update on the employment of people with disabilities.

Bottom Dollars – A Rooted in Rights documentary on sheltered workshops

View Video Link

Other resources

DRNC’s employment page

DRNC’s library of employment resources, including fact sheets, FAQs and sample letters for requesting accommodations at work.