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Work - wage relationships and individuals with disabilities

by Lou Brown, Kim Farrington, Joanne Suomi,Michele Ziegler, & Tracy Knight.

Abstract: Copyright ã IOS Press

Workers with disabilities need protection from abusive, exploitative and otherwise negative phenomena. However, while some interpretations of intendedly protective work related federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations are helpful, some cause harm. Harm results when they are used to exclude them from the real world of work because they cannot earn minimum wages for an arbitrary number of hours per week; cannot learn to meet minimally acceptable production standards in relatively short periods of time; etc. Tragically, they then sit at home, hang out at the agencies paid to support them, engage in handicapped only recreation-leisure programs or are confined to segregated workshops, activity centers, enclaves or mobile crews.

In an attempt to neutralize that which is not helpful and yet afford and maintain access to integrated workplaces, individuals with disabilities, the significant persons in their lives and the employers directly involved should be able to negotiate Work-Wage Social Contracts. These agreements between fair, concerned, informed and honorable persons should include:

  • Clear articulations of individualized relationships between work related actions and wages that are in concert with the helping and protecting spirits of relevant laws, rules and regulations;

  • Carefully designed and individually relevant evaluation plans that are implemented continuously; and,

  • Procedures that encourage anyone involved or concerned to appeal any part of an agreement to an oversight person, group or agency.

The guiding principles of Work-Wage Social Contracts are that: arrangements should be in the short and long term interests of the worker; a wage is only one of many benefits that can result from functioning in integrated vocational and related settings; if individualized work-wage arrangements are designed, implemented, evaluated and adjusted, better outcomes will be realized than if they are not; and, existing laws, rules and regulations can be interpreted to allow their use. Finally, one legislative intention for the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1998 is that, if resources are limited, individuals with the most significant disabilities should receive services before others. In too many instances, they do not. Work ­Wage Social Contracts should allow more such individuals access to the spirit of this most important law.

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