Coatesville, March 23, 2017 — At Sen. Andy Dinniman’s request, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee today held a hearing on vocational and job training opportunities for people with disabilities.

 “Today’s hearing shed light on just how important these workshops and vocational programs are for people with disabilities and their families,” Dinniman said. “Hopefully, we can continue to work together to ensure that new rules and revisions, no matter how well-intentioned, do not have a negative impact on such opportunities. After all, facilities like Handi-Crafters represent a tremendous and invaluable asset both our community and to the individuals and families that need them the most.”

Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton/Lehigh), who chairs the committee, added, “Ultimately, we all want the same thing. We all want to give people with disabilities training and access to good and fulfilling jobs. If it takes sheltered workshops, training opportunities, and specialized accommodations, then so be it. Providing opportunities for inclusiveness in the workplace benefits all of us – and we should do everything we can to encourage that.”

 

The state Department of Human Resources’ Office of Developmental Programs recently revised proposed changes to its Community Services Support services. While the changes provide more choice and flexibility for people with disabilities, many advocates still fear that the changes would ultimately limit so-called sheltered workshops and limit those with disabilities from training and job opportunities.

A sheltered workshop is defined as a supervised workplace for physically disabled or mentally handicapped adults. Critics claim the workshops can be conceptually exploitative and exclude people with disabilities from full community interaction.

Some of the current proposed changes would require – with certain exceptions –25 percent time in the community as opposed to a facility setting; calculate time in the community on a monthly basis; limit size of existing facility to 150 participants by 2019 (25 participants for new workshops); and mandate certain staff qualifications.

Joining Democratic senators, those who took part in the hearing included:

  • Nancy Thailer, deputy secretary, Office of Developmental Programs, PA DHS;
  • Richard Edley, president/CEO, Rehabilitation & Community Providers Association;
  • Amy Rice, executive director, Handi Crafters Inc. (a provider/workshop facility);
  • Kathleen Cronin, parent advocate;
  • Aaron Muderick, CEO, Crazy Aaron’s Puttworld in Narberth, PA;
  • Jeanne Meikrantz, executive director, Arc of Chester County; and
  • Cynthia McCurdy, parent advocate 

 

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