I want to express my disappointment at Debra Erdley's news story regarding the phaseout of sheltered workshops in Pennsylvania ( “Sheltered workshops for disabled face uncertainty from proposed Pennsylvania rules” ).
People with disabilities have worked for many years to end the practice of exploiting the labor of disabled workers to complete less desirable work for subminimum wages. Exempt from minimum-wage laws, many such employees are paid only pennies an hour. The disability community has worked for many years to end this practice and the practice of segregating people in congregate settings outside of our communities.
Because we disproportionately live in poverty and there are years-long waiting lists for community inclusion supports, for many of us, these sheltered workshops have been the only community and work settings we have ever known or been able to access.
Our community has been fighting to end our segregation and exploitation since the beginning of the deinstitutionalization and right-to-education movements in the 1960s and '70s and continuing today as we work to make sure our people have access to the things that nondisabled people take for granted.
The phaseout of sheltered workshops is a success of decades of tireless advocacy by disabled activists. I am disappointed that the Tribune-Review has neglected this part of our story.
The writer is executive director of the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (autisticpgh.org).