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US Department of Justice Issues Guidance on ADA Integrated Employment Mandate

The United States Department of Justice this week issued a “Statement on Application of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C. to State and Local Governments’ Employment Service Systems for Individuals with Disabilities.”

The Justice Department clarified that the Americans with Disabilities Act’s integration mandate applies in all aspects of a person’s life, including the employment context. “The civil rights of persons with disabilities, including individuals with mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or physical disabilities, are violated by unnecessary segregation in a wide variety of settings, including in segregated employment, vocational, and day programs.”

As the Protection and Advocacy system for Wisconsin charged with advancing the civil rights of all people with disabilities, Disability Rights Wisconsin has consistently advocated for state and local governments to ensure that taxpayer funding is being used to advance, and not impede, individuals with disabilities’ right to live, work, and recreate in the most integrated environment possible.

In order to exercise free choice, people with disabilities must have a viable and available community integrated employment system with the supports and accommodations required by the ADA. More than 25 years after the passage of the ADA, Wisconsin continues to spend almost 90% of its Medicaid funding for prevocational services in segregated, sheltered workshops.[1]

By consistently failing to invest in community integrated employment, the vast majority of Wisconsinites working in these settings have had no real community job alternative, are paid less than the minimum wage for the work they perform, and have never been advanced from prevocational to vocational job opportunities, despite years of work.

Yet in Dane county, and in other states that have embraced the ADA’s mandate to provide community integrated employment, the vast majority of individuals with disabilities, including those with more severe disabilities, choose to work in competitive jobs just as people without disabilities. DRW joins the United States Department of Justice in calling to account Wisconsin’s state and local governments to comply with the ADA’s integration mandate, as consistently articulated by the federal courts, and end the unnecessary and illegal segregation of employment and day services that are planned, funded, and administered by state and local governments.