Funding to workshops for individuals with disabilities will cease by the year 2019. Families have been fighting this issue for more than three years, and even though some compromises have been made, there is still more to be done.
People must to continue to fight and speak up, or funding cuts will not stop at just workshops. We have seen it happen too often: a human service agency agrees to make cutbacks in one program, and the state or federal government just proceeds to cut another one if they can get away with it.
I am convinced that once workshop programs are shut down, next in line will be day habilitation and seniors programs for people with disabilities – programs that individuals utilize to be productive citizens to the best of their abilities. Programs for young adults getting ready to transition from public education to the workforce are also under fire.
With the choice of workshops or day habs stripped away, what will be the future? Will the government determine where an individual will work based on a test score? Imagine a faceless stranger determining our children’s futures, instead of families who clearly know best. How is that fair?
Even now, bureaucrats are telling me that the choice I made to enroll my son, Matthew, in an accredited day services program after he graduated from high school four years ago was not a meaningful and integrated work program. Unbelievable!
What The Powers That Be do not understand is programs cannot be ‘one size fits all,’ not all workshops are inadequately and underperforming, and some individuals with disabilities are not able to work in a setting other than a workshop.
My son, like many of his peers, needs too many other supports that he simply would not receive in an integrated employment program. When he ultimately fails in such a program, he will end up sitting idle at home, waiting for someone to find something else. How is that productive for anyone just to sit home?
We need people to take a strong approach against funding cuts now, or there will be devastating consequences. We will have unhappy individuals, at home with nowhere to work, isolated from the community. Our individuals will fall through the cracks.
It is an infuriating misrepresentation to see the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Olmstead Act used as a crutch to say our sons and daughters with developmental disabilities are being stripped of their rights as a human being to live a meaningful integrated employment life. They are missing the whole concept that our individuals are working hard, enjoy their work and are not being forced to work somewhere they don’t wish to work.
We need to make the government understand the reality, versus what is just a wonderful idea in a perfect world.
Stand up and speak now. Time is running out, and if changes go through, the final outcome will not be what we or our individuals want. Put the choice in our hands, not the government.
Please join me at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21 for The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming Family Advocacy Group meeting at the Chris Peterson Work Center, 3 East State Street in Mount Morris. If you have questions, contact The Arc at 658-2828, and ask for Kellie Kennedy or Jeff Thomas.
3939 Wethersfield Road
Warsaw, NY 14569