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National Council on Disability Chairman Jonathan Young appointed a Council Member, Clyde Terry, to Chair an ad hoc group dubbed the “Subminimum Wage” Committee, made up of five Council Members and NCD staff. Seven states were selected for site visits: New York, Ohio, Vermont, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oregon and Washington – taking into account diversity, geography, states that had successfully converted and/or eliminated sheltered workshops and those that have not; states that have a large population of people with disabilities in sheltered settings and those that do not; suburban; urban; and rural settings. The Committee selected a cross-section of states and communities to get a detailed understanding of how employment programs work best and to identify the difficulties faced by workers with disabilities in gaining competitive integrated employment.

Using the same series of open-ended questions, each set of questions crafted for a specific group of stakeholders, the Committee interviewed advocates, supported employment providers, state policymakers; workers with disabilities, families, and providers of workshop programs. The Committee’s methodology is intended to help the Council advance recommendations to improve opportunities for adult workers with disabilities in competitive, integrated employment at fair wages.

The Council started its analysis and crafted its recommendations from the stakeholder level rather than the policy level. In other words, the Council’s preferred entry point is the lives of individual people with disabilities rather than a policy debate.  . That conviction led to undertaking site visits and the interviews. The Council focused on identifying frameworks that will promote improved quality of life for individuals with disabilities, and particularly what individual people with disabilities believe better quality of life means for them.

NCD’s primary constituents are individuals with disabilities. In this context, that meant focusing primarily on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD). The Committee has ensured their voices received priority and have resisted the assumption that parents, siblings, and providers speak for these adults. Adults who experience ID/DD have a long history of others claiming to speak for their interests. While they care deeply, we, as NCD, seek to ensure that this population of adults is empowered to speak for themselves. We are mindful of the slogan adopted by those in the disability community who successfully negotiated the first human rights treaty of the 21st century, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – “Nothing about us, without us.”