A blog post

APRIL and NCIL support S1356, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 2013

Posted on the 16 October, 2013 at 9:20 am Written by in News

This bill, which will reauthorize the Rehabilitation Act, was passed out of the Senate HELP committee on July 31st.  The proposed changes within S.1356 are a bipartisan effort to strengthen employment opportunities, research and independent living services. We are focused on three significant changes to current law:  the creation of an Independent Living Administration (ILA), moving Vocational Rehabilitation to the Department of Labor and Section 511 of the Rehab Act.

Most disability advocates agree that the creation of an ILA is long overdue. However, moving VR and especially Section 511 have become contentious among some of our allies. Everyone can agree that paying subminimum wages to our brothers and sisters with disabilities in sheltered workshops is unconscionable, but many believe that Section 511 has the “potential” to funnel people into just those circumstances.

We support Section 511 because while not perfect, it is a vast improvement over current law because of the barriers and checkpoints it creates to prevent people from being automatically directed towards sheltered workshops. Current law does not prevent that from happening.

The problem is not Section 511. The problem is Section 14(c). Section 511 moves us in the right direction, creating meaningful obstacles to prevent people with disabilities from being shuffled into segregated, noncompetitive, subminimum wage employment. Attention should instead be focused on Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This anachronistic and discriminatory legislation continues to be an embarrassment to justice and inhibits the ability of our brothers and sisters to live independently.

It is important to remember that language for Section 511 is offered by Senator Tom Harkin, one of the most respected champions of disability rights this nation has known. Section 511 stands as the most realistic and effective solution in this tough political climate to decrease the number of workers with disabilities who are currently being used and degraded.

We stand with Senator Harkin in support of Section 511 and believe this section will do more to keep people out of sheltered workshops and subminimum wage employment than doing nothing at all.