February 5, 2021
VOR Weekly News Update
VOR is a national non-profit organization that advocates for
high quality care and human rights for all people with
intellectual and developmental disabilities.
VOR promises to empower you to make and protect quality of life choices for individuals with developmental disabilities
The Campaign For Change

This year, VOR's Annual Meeting will be held virtually, via Zoom. The date and details are yet to be announced.

As most members know, our Annual Meeting is a forum for our members to learn more about VOR and their fellow members, to share information about the issues they face in their home states, and to learn how to become better advocates for their loved ones with I/DD. This year, though virtual, should prove no different. For some families who have trouble traveling to Washington, D.C. each year, this may be a better way to connect without having to travel, especially during the pandemic.

But the Annual Meeting is also an opportunity for VOR's ongoing fundraising efforts. And our Membership and Development Committee is trying to devise strategies to raise non-virtual funds for this virtual event.

So to kick off this fundraising season, we are offering a contest, the Campaign for Change.

It's easy. Every day, at the end of the day, empty your pockets of all your loose change and put it into a jar. You can dig into your couch cushions, too. On May 1st, gather up all of that change and take it to the bank or a CoinStar machine and cash it in, deposit it into your bank account, and send a check to VOR for the amount of change you've gathered. You are welcome to get family and friends, children and grandchildren involved.

At our virtual Annual Meeting, five winners will be announced. So start saving those pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters today, and we look forward to seeing you all in June!

"Be a part of the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi
Weaponizing "Ableism" in the World of Autism
How this label is used to shut down accounts of severe autism and I/DD
By Amy S.F. Lutz, Psychology Today, February 3, 2021

Yesterday, I was blocked from commenting or posting in a Facebook group for parents of autistic children for 24 hours.

What did I say to garner such a punishment? In response to a commenter who claimed that all autistics can advocate for themselves, I wrote, “This is simply untrue. My son is 22 with a tested IQ of 40, and virtually no abstract language. At no point in his life could he articulate what he needs to thrive in an educational, vocational, or residential setting. And no one in this group could do that for him. His father and I are best positioned to advocate for him and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

The admin who removed my comment scolded, “You aren’t his voice.” In a note to the group explaining why she had deleted several comments and was now closing the subthread, she admonished, “We do not allow ableism to stand.”

After I was blocked, I re-read my comment: completely accurate, I thought – not to mention, civil. If anything, it was a drastic understatement of the cognitive impairments that will necessitate a lifetime of round-the-clock supervision and preclude Jonah from ever making an important decision for himself. How was that ableist?

In her book Ableism: The Causes and Consequences of Disability Prejudice, Professor of Psychology and Disability Studies Michelle Nario-Redmond defines ableism as “prejudice and discrimination toward individuals simply because they are classified as disabled.” This seems uncontroversial: If an employer rejects a qualified candidate just because she’s in a wheelchair, or a waiter refuses to serve a teenager with Down syndrome, that’s obviously wrong.

Yet that’s not how the term was used against me. Autistic self-advocates and disability-rights proponents more broadly have morphed this critical concept into something unrecognizable. Parents, doctors, and service providers who describe individuals who kick out car windows or bite their own arms bloody or pull out handfuls of their teachers’ hair are now attacked as “ableist,” even though they are not, as Dan Perlman defined “ableism” in his foreword to Nario-Redmond’s book, “perpetuat[ing] false perceptions of people with disabilities." In fact, they are doing the exact opposite, shining a bright light on families in crisis and insisting that the severely autistic and their uniquely challenging impairments, behaviors, and service needs not be excluded from public discourse about disability.

A common accusation that accompanies the label of “ableism” is that neurotypical parents are “talking over” self-advocates. I agree that this would also be a form of ableism if parents were “ablesplaining” to an autistic adult his or her own experience. But honestly, I’ve never seen this. No parent I know would dream of telling autistic adults what support they require to succeed in college or in the workplace – because we have no idea. What I have seen are parents correcting autistic adults who generalize from their own lives to make what are often egregiously inaccurate pronouncements about kids they have never met: that all autistics can self-advocate, as the commenter I responded to asserted; that aggressive and self-injurious behavior is just a form of communication parents need to decipher; that all autistics can read, thrive in inclusive classrooms and hold competitive, minimum-wage employment.

Ironically, by censoring parents trying to speak about the lives of their severely autistic children, self-advocates are actually the ones guilty of ableism. Nario-Redmond notes that “the term ableism clarifies the notion that anyone can be impacted by ability discrimination” – which is exactly what happens when autistic adults privilege the voices of those with the capacity to speak for themselves and reject the legitimacy of family members as representatives for their profoundly impacted children. If they succeed, only the stories of those with the cognitive ability to tell them will be counted. There is nothing more ableist than that.

Vocational Centers and 14(c):
VOR - In Support of Vocational Centers for Individuals with I/DD and Autism and the 14(c) Wage Certificate Program

Readers of this newsletter will recall that last week, two bills were entered in the House and Senate that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The bills also contain provisions that would phase out and ultimately eliminate Vocational Centers and Wage Certificates as allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Congress is also negotiating the Biden Administration's American Rescue Plan, which contains similar language.

VOR has written to key members of the Senate to advocate in support of vocational centers and the protection of Section 14(c) wage certificates.

To read VOR's letter, or for further information, please go to our website, or click here
Proposed Rule Change Concerns Sheltered Workshop Operators
By Joe Gamm, Fulton Sun, January 30, 2021
Proposed changes to a federal rule have people who operate sheltered workshops concerned.
President Joe Biden administration's stimulus bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, would eliminate Section 14(c), under which government may issue certificates authorizing employers to pay sub-minimum wages to workers with disabilities that impair their productivity for the work they perform.

If the federal government removes the exemption, sheltered workshops would not be able to afford to continue providing work for many people with disabilities, said Tracy Gritsenko, an organizer for A Team Missouri and director of public policy and advocacy for Industrial Aid Inc. in St. Louis.

A Team Missouri is one of 20 chapters of A Team USA, which advocates for people with special needs. It strives to ensure the full array of options and opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
"Section 14(c) enables sheltered workshops to employ people with a wide variety of disabilities who have a wide variance of abilities, who otherwise would not be in the workforce," Gritsenko said in an email. "Working in a sheltered workshop provides these individuals with a work routine — just like everyone else — which they desire."

Dignity Has a Voice, an organization formed to empower people with disabilities and their family members to defend and protect the right to choose sheltered employment, has issued a call to action.
The organization posted Thursday on its Facebook page an alert and request for supporters to contact their U.S. lawmakers.

The alert warns elimination of Section 14(c) could force sheltered workshops to close.
Workshop families and their clients have posted testimonials on the organization's Facebook page.

The article to the right is excerpted from a follow up story
Data Show Missouri's Sheltered Workshops Provide Economic Benefit
By Joe Gamm, News Tribune, February 3, 2021

In Missouri, 86 nonprofit corporations operate 92 sheltered workshops.

Sheltered workshops serve more than 5,800 Missourians — with 4,518 currently employed and another 1,290 under COVID-19 quarantine protocols. Another 379 workshop participants have been certified for employment and are awaiting jobs.

The average working employee is 43.5 years old and has been in a workshop program for 11.3 years.

Sheltered workshop employees work an average of 27.9 hours per week and earn an average of $5.49 per hour.

As of Jan. 1, Missouri's minimum wage is $10.30 per hour. It has been increasing since 2018, when voters elected to incrementally raise it to $12 an hour in 2013.

Staff and management at sheltered workshops account for another 564 full-time employees, McGowin said.

"During the early stages and throughout the pandemic, 78 of our 86 workshop corporations received essential supplier letters from their customers or directly from the federal government to continue operations due to the relationships they had directly with personal protective equipment and crucial supplies and service," she said.

Missouri's sheltered workshops program is unique in that it focuses on employment, she said. It also accepts no federal funding.

In Fiscal Year 2020, Missouri workshops produced more than $189.5 million in total revenues, which included more than $137.6 million in sales. Certified-disabled workers received almost $30.6 million in payroll. Sheltered workshop management and employees earned another $12.4 million.

Letter to the Editor
By John Wayne Barker, KROX-FM News, January 30, 2021

Note: The following piece references a 2020 report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (CCR) entitled Subminimum Wages: Impacts on the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities”

In Minnesota we have day programs that offer special minimum wage and center-based work as options for people with I/DD to better realize their earning potential. We have also led the effort to increase opportunities for people with I/DD to find and hold minimum wage jobs. Still, there are more than 7,000 people in our programs that prefer and need the 14(c) option. As one mother stated, it is “less-than-minimum wage or no job at all”: Furthermore, proponents of eliminating 14(c), seem to equate the value of a person with I/DD based on their ability to earn a minimum wage whereas nonprofit day programs value all the people we serve regardless of their hourly wage.

Providers operating with 14(c) certificates are able to turn substantial profits and returns for their corporate officers while paying workers with disabilities less than minimum wage; businesses who contract with these providers benefit from decreased labor and benefit costs.

Day programs in MN are nonprofits and their audits and tax returns are public documents. Furthermore, in 2019 I conducted a study of nonprofit compensation in MN which confirmed that executives of day programs are not excessively compensated and, if done correctly, businesses that contract with us pay the same labor cost per unit they would pay if using a nondisabled workforce.

People with I/DD who are currently earning subminimum wages under the 14(c) certificate are not categorically different in level of disability from people with I/DD currently working in minimum wage jobs.
With more than 40 years of experience in disability services, I know this is a myth and there is a difference in work skills between people with I/DD working in the general workforce and those working for a special minimum wage. One Commissioner refuted this myth by stating ~ “If it were possible for a person working for subminimum wage to earn the full minimum wage ‘with a little support,’ don’t you think these devoted parents would have leapt at the opportunity”? This myth is simply propaganda the CCR needed to support their predetermined recommendation.

Paying low wages to people with disabilities harms their economic potential, increasing the likelihood that they will remain reliant on state and federal support.

In reality, people with I/DD eligible for state and federal support have chronic and lifelong disabilities that preclude most of them from ever being financially independent. To assert otherwise is to label most people with I/DD a failure for relying on state and federal support.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires increased integration of people with disabilities into the workplace and society and is facilitated by technological advancements that obviate any need for subminimum wage work.

The ADA does not require employers to lower production standards – whether qualitative or quantitative – applied uniformly to employees with and without disabilities. Therefore, a person with a disability who is unable to perform the essential functions, with or without reasonable accommodation, is not a “qualified” individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA.

Letter to the Editor: “You know, sis, I like my job just the way it is.”
By Laura Giebler-Taylor, Gasconade County Republican, February 3, 2021

I am the sister to a wonderful man who works in a Sheltered Workshop. My older brother, Jake, is employed at Empac Group Inc at the Sullivan facility. After celebrating his 20th work anniversary at Empac in 2020, Jake continues to find value in his work there. Empac has helped Jake learn the importance of quality in his work. I have often asked my brother if he would like to find other employment outside of a Sheltered Workshop, and he always says “You know, sis, I like my job just the way it is.”

You see, the American Rescue plan, as well as, the upcoming bills – The Time Act & The Transformation Bill - all call for a phasing out of 14c of the Fair Labor Standard Act. While I understand the concept, I do not believe all understand what those bills will do to the future of thousands of individuals with disabilities who are employed in Sheltered Workshops. Jake’s employment, like for many, is not just a job. Jake has the opportunity to be active and socialize with many people – people who understand him and truly care about his well-being.

The elimination of 14c could close his place of employment – his CHOICE of employment. If the Workshops close, Jake will have good life at home, on the farm with our family, but it is not the life he wants. He thrives on consistency and enjoys keeping his regular work schedule. He is familiar with the tasks he completes at work, and new tasks elsewhere cause him much anxiety. If the government passes the elimination of 14c in any bill, it will have taken away a job from my brother, Jake, who is a son, uncle, brother-in-law, grandson, cousin, church member, restaurant lover, movie goer, and an American citizen who values his work at Empac Group.

State News:
Oregon - Experts Fear Abuse Against Older and Disabled Adults Going Unreported
Multnomah County, February 3, 2021

Reports of abuse and neglect of older adults and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities were down at least 15 percent and 40 percent, respectively, in 2020, Multnomah County announced today. 

The pandemic has isolated older adults and individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities from friends, family and other trusted individuals. Because of that, experts believe, cases of abuse and neglect are likely going unreported. 
“We know that abuse is happening, and the pandemic is making it harder for people to notice the signs” said Brian Hughes, who manages the County’s Adult Protective Services program. “People should not assume mistreatment has disappeared, and should remain vigilant to signs of distress of vulnerable people.“

In 2019 Multnomah County Adult Protective Services (APS) received 10,463 reports of abuse for older adults and people with physical disabilities. In 2020, APS received 8,740 reports, a decrease of 16 percent. Reports for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities went from 1,697 to 1,006 in that same time span, down 41 percent.

Abuse and neglect can occur in a person’s own home, the community or a professional care setting. Abuse can occur from strangers, family members or paid caregivers. Signs of abuse and neglect include, but are not limited to:
  • Unexplained or unusual injuries
  • Dramatic weight loss, dehydration or poor hygiene
  • Untreated medical conditions
  • Unpaid bills despite adequate assets
  • Sudden appearance of new acquaintances
  • Social isolation or limited communication with friends and family

The decline in reporting is fueling concerns that vulnerable people are suffering in silence. Multnomah County is urging the community to recognize the signs and risks associated with abuse and neglect.

New York - Care Providers, Families Shocked by Funding Cuts for NYers with Developmental Disabilities
By Denis Slattery, New York Daily News,
February 4, 2021
Family members and service providers supporting some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers say they were blindsided by a proposed $93 million cut to funding for New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.Providers say the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities alerted them to the reduction, described as an “administrative action,” after vague language in Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal warned only of “reductions in Medicaid rates for OPWDD services” and potential 5% trimming.
The massive cut, coupled with last year’s $73 million, adds up to a staggering $166 million or 39% reduction, in less than 12 months, advocates argue.

In response to the proposal, the state’s seven regional Care Coordination Organizations, which help line up care for roughly 110,000 New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are banding together to oppose the cuts.
“To dismantle this program, a lifeline for vulnerable individuals with I/DD, especially during this pandemic, is discriminatory, unconscionable and frankly irresponsible on the part of OPWDD,” said asked James Moran, CEO of Care Design NY. “The empathy has gone out of OPWDD as the I/DD service system continues to erode and fail the population for which it was created to support. When does the annual OPWDD funding assault at the expense of an already marginalized and vulnerable population end?” he added.

Massachusetts - Gov’s Proposed FY22 DDS Budget would Boost Provider-run Group Home Funding, but Cut Day Programs and Transportation
By Dave Kassel, The COFAR Blog, February 2, 2021

A DDS spokesperson confirmed yesterday (Feb. 3) that cuts proposed in Governor Baker’s Fiscal 2022 budget in DDS community-based day and transportation programs are due to “the ripple effects of COVID-19 restrictions.”

Those COVID restrictions are expected to continue into Fiscal 2022, which starts on July 1, according to DDS spokesman Christopher Klaskin.

Klaskin said the administration has proposed transfer language to reallocate funding to the community-based day and work and transportation accounts if demand for those programs increases.

If so, that’s good news, although it remains to be seen to what degree those allocations would be made.
Klaskin also stated that DDS and its providers “have worked to accelerate” virtual programming such as Zoom sessions “that can supplement and in some cases replace in-person day services.” (my emphasis)

New Jersey - NJ Law Proposed to Require Group Homes Address Isolation
By Dino Flammia, New Jersey 101.5, February, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic will likely forever change the way group homes in New Jersey keep their residents socially connected, whether or not there's a health threat present.

A proposed state law wants to ensure it does.

A bill approved in late January by the Assembly Human Services Committee would require that community-based residential programs in New Jersey, as a condition of licensure, implement and adhere to policies that foster personal connection and prevent social isolation of residents.

According to the bill's language, these policies at group homes, supervised apartments, and other residential settings for individuals with developmental disabilities, would relate to both in-person activities and times at which in-person contact may be restricted.

"While social distancing guidelines have saved countless lives, they have also led to the social isolation of those living in community-based centers," bill sponsors Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, Assemblywoman Joann Downey, D-Monmouth, and Assemblyman Daniel Benson, D-Mercer, said. "This bill will prioritize the mental and physical well-being of those in group homes by allowing them to get the social interaction they have lacked over the past year and reduce their social isolation."
Under the bill, disciplinary action would be possible for programs that fail to comply with the bill's specific provisions. The bill says the state Department of Human Services would be required to distribute available state and federal funds, upon request, to programs that need help acquiring the necessary technology to reduce the social isolation threat.

"To fully implement this bill, we just have to keep in mind that there must be appropriate funding," said Thomas Baffuto, executive director of The Arc of New Jersey. "In some instances ... a large amount of staff may be needed to fulfill the requirements of this legislation."

Coronavirus Update:
Every week, many articles about state responses to the COVID-19 pandemic come across my desk. Too many to feature, but there is too much rapidly-changing information to ignore. Some links below will help our readers follow the progress and setbacks of different states:

North Carolina - Advocates Worry NC’s Vaccine Plan Bumps Those With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities (click here)

Arizona - People with IDD Must Be Moved Ahead in Vaccination Line (click here)

Tennesseans with Some Disabilities Prioritized for COVID-19 Vaccine (click here)

New York - Advocates for Disabled Concerned over Vaccine Rollout (click here)

Covid-19 Tracker:
More Than 119 Million People Have Gotten Vaccines Worldwide;
The U.S. has Administered 36.7 Million Doses

A Quick Guide to Statewide Vaccination Plans

Littler Publications is offering a free guide to vaccine plans for each state.

This chart is not all-inclusive and does not cover municipalities, some of which have issued their own guidance. Nor does the chart include vaccine provider registration procedures or industry-specific guidance. The purpose of the below information is to give employers a general idea of what vaccine-related actions various jurisdictions are taking.

Monthly Donations and
VOR’s “21 in 21” Campaign

Your monthly donation of $21 will allow us to continue communicating face-to-face with members of Congress and fight to stop legislation aimed at closing Intermediate Care Facilities or Facility-Based Work Centers across the country.

Your monthly donation of $21 will ensure a seat at the table for your family member and give you a voice in decisions that affect policies that govern their health, residential care, and daily activities.

Your monthly donation of $21 will insure continued regional conference calls where family members across the country have a voice and share concerns and ideas. It will help pay for the VOR Voice and our Weekly Newsletter.

Your monthly donation of $21 will insure a continued Voice of Reason.

VOR Bill Watch:
Click on blue link to view information about the bill


H.R. 603 & S. 53 - The Raise the Wage Act - These bills are aimed at raising the minimum wage, but they also have provisions to phase out and ultimately eliminate vocational centers and 14 (c) wage certificates over the next six years and to immediately stop the issuing of any new certificates. VOR believes the issue of employment options for individuals with intellectual disabilities should not be buried in a bill for raising the federal minimum wage. Both issues deserve clean, stand-alone bills.


At this writing, there have been no bills entered in the 117th Congress that support a full continuum of care, or advance the interests of Direct Support Professionals.
Stay tuned.
Direct Support Professionals:
Pandemic Helpline For Caregivers of People With IDD

As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, a new 24-hour support line is working to help individuals with developmental disabilities and those who care for them cope during this tough time.

Known as Project Connect, the telehealth line is free and available anytime for people with disabilities, their families, caregivers and other members of their support teams across the nation.

Project Connect is available by calling 888-847-3209.

Our loved ones' caregivers are essential to their health, safety, and happiness.
In appreciation of their good work and kind hearts, VOR offers free digital memberships to any DSP who would like to join.

We encourage our members to speak with their loved ones' caregivers to extend this offer of our gratitude.

If you are a Direct Support Professional interested in receiving our newsletter and e-content, please write us at

with your name, email address, and the name of the facility at which you work. Please include the name of the VOR member who told you of this offer. 

What's Happening In Your Community?

Is there an issue in your loved one's home that you need help with?
Do you have information or a news story you would like to share?
Is there legislation in your state house that needs attention?

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