The Rights Times
Summer 2016 Newsletter
Living on a Dime and Left Behind
For more than 70 years, employers holding special certificates issued by the Department of Labor have been allowed to pay less than minimum wage to workers with disabilities - in some cases as little as a penny per hour. 

Also, most employers paying subminimum wage keep employees segregated from the community in sheltered workshops. 

In our newly released report, Living on a Dime and Left Behind: How a Depression-Era Labor Law Cheats Texas Workers with Disabilities, we highlight the details of these discriminatory practices in Texas and recommend solutions to end the injustice.

Living on a Dime in Texas:
W hat We Discovered
As part of a national effort to examine the treatment of people with disabilities in sheltered workshops, DRTx initiated an investigation to better understand how sheltered and subminimum wage work impacts Texans with disabilities. 

Our Living on a Dime and Left Behind report identifies five critical and overarching concerns:
  • Sheltered workshops do not provide meaningful opportunities for skill advancement to Texans with disabilities.
  • Sheltered workshops create a segregated and isolated environment ripe for exploitation.
  • Wages in sheltered workshops are minimal, frequently miscalculated, and exclusively controlled by the provider.
  • Sheltered work is not leading to competitive integrated employment in the community.
  • Texas state vocational rehabilitation services are not providing vocational services to Texans with disabilities leaving many individuals stuck in workshop settings.
Read the full report for more details on our findings.
Living on a Dime in Texas: Their Stories
During the investigation, DRTx interviewed people with disabilities in sheltered workshops in Texas. Here are a few of their stories.  (Names have been changed to respect each person's privacy.)

"Sam" is a talkative young man who has been working at a workshop for 11 years. He wants to get out and move on to something better. He says he has tried to escape the workshop but has been unsuccessful. His workshop is in a rural area, miles from accessible transportation options or community services. He says that the job skills he has learned at the workshop are "hanging out with friends and chilling." He says that he gets paid $179 for 30 hours of work but is only allowed to receive $25 and doesn't know why. He would love to work at a gift shop, but he can't get out of the workshop.

"Julie" is an articulate young woman who has been working at her current workshop for two years. She graduated from high school and went to work in the fast food industry where she says she used to earn about $300 every two weeks. But since her guardian moved her to the sheltered workshop, she receives $30 every two weeks. She wants to earn more but feels like she is trapped. At one point she had a state vocational rehab counselor, but he told her that he couldn't help her. She dreams of leaving the workshop and working with animals in the community. 

Read the full report for more stories.
Living on a Dime in Texas:
It's Time For Change
DRTx's findings underscore that Texas is at a turning point, with a chance to make a critical difference in the lives of Texans with disabilities. 

Texas has made initial progress by instituting the Employment First Task Force, an inter-agency group initiated through the passage of Senate Bill 1226 in 2013.  The findings in our report support the goal of the Employment First Task Force to fully include Texans with disabilities in the workplace.
DRTx further recommends that Texas should:
  • Phase out of the subminimum wage and sheltered work system and move toward fully competitive integrated employment;
  • Provide more job training and development in state-funded programs;
  • Overhaul day habilitation services; and
  • Remove barriers to hiring individuals with disabilities in state agencies.
Texas has before it both an opportunity and an obligation to ensure people with disabilities have access to the same employment opportunities as all other Texas citizens.

For a more detailed explanation of our recommendations,  read the full report.
Need Help?
If you are a Texan with a disability who believes your rights have been violated, please call our Intake Line at 1.800.252.9108 or our Sign Language Video Intake Line at 1.888.362.2851. Intake hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Online Intake Available 24/7
Can't call during our regular intake hours or can't get through due to high call volume? Click here to complete our online intake form available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit for more information.