Inclusion Pays Off in Vermont / MN Series On Disability and Work

The Star Tribune has a great  five-part series about disability and work, focused on Minnesota, but looking more broadly – Failing the Disabled.

Here’s one I like, because it’s a positive outcome.

With her zest and ambition, Wollum personifies the remarkable strategy that has made Vermont a leader in the civil rights movement for adults with disabilities. If she lived in Minnesota, Wollum might have been steered into a sheltered workshop or mobile cleaning crew, where thousands of disabled adults perform mundane tasks and have little or no contact with the broader community.
But here, in this state of hardscrabble hillside farms and country roads lined with sugar maples, sheltered workshops are a thing of the past. Disabled adults are expected to take their place each day alongside other working people. In the 16 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered states to end the segregation of people with disabilities, few states have carried the flag as boldly as Vermont.

This is achievable everywhere.
Instead, even in Minnesota, a state that prides itself on its commitment to disability justice, we get this:

Though both have Down syndrome, Erin, 26, and Suzanne, 23, have been on starkly different career paths.

Erin makes as little as $2.75 an hour at MRCI, a sheltered workshop operator.
Suzanne makes $10.10 as a breakfast hostess at the Hampton Inn.

While Erin and her cleaning crew are largely hidden from public view, Suzanne’s is the first face that many visitors see each morning in this southern Minnesota town.
Just how Erin and Suzanne wound up on such different trajectories is a case study in the fickle nature of job opportunities for Minnesotans with disabilities.

Jobs have been the big quest for decades now. I’m glad Vermont is showing what’s possible.

Leave a Reply