The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and Ensuring Our Right to Competitive Integrated Employment

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The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is an important law. WIOA does helpful things that make people with disabilities more likely to get real jobs. WIOA also makes it harder to send people with disabilities into places where they make less than minimum wage. We want to make sure this law works well. 

ASAN wants to protect WIOA because it helps us get better jobs. On this page, ASAN will describe things about WIOA that help people with disabilities. 

Pre-Employment Transition Services (PETS)

People leaving high school for the first time usually want to do two things. They want to either get a job or go to college. Sometimes people with disabilities find it hard to get a job or get into college. That is okay. 

WIOA says that there are government agencies that have to get us help during high school. The government agencies are called vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies. 

One of the kinds of help they have to give us are a kind of services. They are called pre-employment transition services (PETS). 

VR agencies have to give you these services in high school: 

  • Job counseling – you talk to someone to find out what kind of job you want and would be good at; 
  • Work-based learning experiences – you get an internship, or you go to a business where someone teaches you how to do a job 
  • College prep – help figuring out if you want to go to college and what you want to study 
  • Work social skills help – help with how you should act while at work 
  • Self advocacy – help learning how to make decisions and fight for your rights 

VR agencies can add some other services if they want. Most of these make it easier for students to live on their own, get good jobs, or for the school to help students with disabilities. 

ASAN wants to protect PETS so students with disabilities get off to a good start. 

Competitive Integrated Employment 

Competitive integrated employment is a kind of job you can have. We will call it “integrated employment” for short. 

WIOA has regulations – rules by a government agency. WIOA’s regulations say what integrated employment means. Integrated employment is: 

  • A job where you are not paid less than minimum wage and not less than most people without disabilities doing the same job 
  • A real job that can be found by anyone out in the community 
  • Where you work with and talk to people without disabilities
  • Where you can get promoted and get the same benefits – which are things like days off and health insurance 

Integrated employment is what most people want. We want real jobs that pay real money in the community. 

Some types of jobs are segregated employment. In segregated employment, we are not working with people without disabilities. We are not working in the community. Sometimes we make less than minimum wage. These are not real jobs that pay real money in the community. 

Some groups of people keep trying to make it so that WIOA does not say what integrated employment is. It is important that WIOA say what integrated employment is. This is because if WIOA did not say what integrated employment was, segregated jobs could say they were integrated. They could say they gave people real jobs that pay real money, even if they didn’t. 

The U.S government pays government agencies to help us get jobs. Government agencies have to try and help us get integrated employment first. Sheltered workshops will sometimes try and get more employees this way by saying they are integrated. They might be able to do this more often if WIOA does not say what integrated employment is. 

Advocates should work together with us to protect WIOA. 

WIOA Report

When WIOA was first passed, the law created a group of people called a committee. A committee is a group of people that looks at a problem and gives the government advice on how they can solve it. The committee WIOA created was called the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. 

WIOA asked the committee to write a report. The report had to tell the government how it could help people with disabilities get real jobs for real money. We call these kinds of jobs integrated employment. 

The committee met many times and thought long and hard. There were lots of different kinds of people on the committee — including self-advocates, different kinds of employers and service providers, and government agencies. They had lots of different opinions on integrated employment. There were many things they did not agree on. The committee also heard from a lot of different people, who gave their opinion on the meetings and report drafts. 

The committee still managed to agree on what should go in the Final Report. 

The committee published its Final Report on September 15, 2016. The Final Report says: 

  • The government needs to help more people get integrated employment. This means the federal government should make sure enough money goes to integrated employment. It should also make sure people are trained in how to help us get good jobs. 
  • The government needs to help young people with disabilities to get good jobs. This means getting them everything they need to be ready to get good jobs, like family support and any technology they need. 
  • We should not pay people less than the minimum wage anymore. The government should pass laws that stop anyone from paying less than minimum wage over time. The government should help states and businesses do integrated employment instead. 
  • The government needs to help businesses employ people in integrated employment. It needs to talk to businesses about how they can do it best. 
  • Government agencies need to work together and help each other to change their policies so it is easier to get people with disabilities good jobs. 
  • There is a government program called the AbilityOne program. AbilityOne helped a lot of people with disabilities get jobs. Sometimes they are segregated jobs. The government should change the law to make it easier for the AbilityOne program to give people integrated employment. 

ASAN agrees with the report. When talking to their Members of Congress about employment, advocates should say that we want Congress to look at what is in the report and follow the advice in the report.