My son does currently work 2 hours a week in competitive integrated employment because Group settings are suppressed and difficult to access in Washington state. However, he works more independently, interacts in a more social way and is more motivated in a group setting. His favorite activities, and those where he needs the least one on one coaching are Special Olympics and other small group settings with his peers. Were he allowed the choice in our state he would enjoy a group supported employment setting very much. The IDD and Autism communities are comprised of hugely varying abilities, interests and needs. It is completely crazy to limit settings and options. This community deserves choices in their work opportunities. If we want holders of Section 14 (C) certificates to pay minimum wage, fine, but only if we subsidize those businesses so that they can continue to employ people for many hours a week. My son would enjoy working more than 2 hours a week but after 6 years of searching for competitive employment 2 hours a week is all his vendor has been able to create for him because of his high support needs and challenging behaviors. Nationally, when you look just at IDD and high acuity individuals, the unemployment rate is nearly 80%. Closing down services that serve their specific behavioral and support needs, while also providing socialization and the dignity of work is a clear disservice to this population. Look carefully at who is advocating for closing 14 (C) programs. It tends to be low acuity advocates. Look at who is advocating to keep them open, it tends to be those with high support needs or their family members (guardians like me) who speak for them, who are their voice, and who have their best interests at heart. I know what my son would like, group supported employment. My state seems dedicated to eliminating this option. My vision for the future would be an expansion of group supported employment with subsidies to allow for higher wages. My vision would be to keep a spectrum of services available for a spectrum of people.
Idea No. 2345