The following is an essay by Chris Collins on WebsterPost.com
By Chris Collins
Posted Nov. 26, 2013 @ 2:01 am
Nov 26, 2013 at 1:11 PM
I write with deep concern over the directive released earlier this year from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to New York State regarding health system transformation for individuals with developmental disabilities. The section involving supported employment services and competitive employment for persons with disabilities has significantly affected those who benefit from sheltered workshops in Western New York.
As you may be aware, since July 1, CMS has not allowed New York State to permit new admissions to sheltered workshops, facilities that employ disabled persons and provide them a sense of community and means of socialization. On Oct. 1, New York State submitted to CMS its mandated draft plan regarding transition to competitive employment, and will submit its final plan by Jan. 1.
The West Side with Rich Kremer will feature a debate over facility-based work versus community-based "competitive" work for persons with disabilities on December 9, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. CST. " The West Side" is a call-in program focused on issues specific to western Wisconsin. The show will air on 88.3 WHWC-FM/ Menomonie-Eau Claire and 88.7 WRFW-FM/ River Falls (streaming live at http://www.wpr.org/listen-live or on Internet sites / Smart Phone apps like Tunein Radio or iHeartRadio). Listeners may call in with questions and comments during the program.
The movement to find jobs for people with disabilities should be cheered for its hard work, forward thinking and innovative efforts on behalf of this vulnerable segment of our population ("Disability nonprofits match workers, jobs," Nov. 22).
At the same time, the term "people with disabilities" encompasses a wide range of individuals with an equally wide range of functional abilities. Some people with disabilities can work on equal par with their able-bodied brethren. Others cannot attend to basic daily needs such as eating and using the bathroom without one-to-one attention. At Eisenhower Center, the vast majority of our clients function well below even 20% of able-bodied workers.
Evelyne Villines remembers when she was told she couldn’t attend school because she was “handicapped.”
Now 84 and an international advocate for people with disabilities, Villines showed up for her first day of school with her pencil and notepad, ready to learn. But the young girl, who contracted polio at age 3, was sent home and told to inform her mother, “I don’t have time to teach a handicapped child.”
When she returned home, she remembered asking, “Mom, am I a handicapped child?”
Ricki Ritt said he feels unheard and unseen by the government. He was one of about 80 participants Wednesday in the My Work My Choice rally.
“To me it’s like the government is slapping me in the face. Like they don’t acknowledge us because we do have disabilities,” Ritt, 55, said.
The rally is an effort to bring awareness to a proposed federal rule that would shift funding away from facilities, like Northwoods, that offer job skills training and employment for adults with disabilities.
The proposal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid would halt Medicaid dollars from going to such programs, based on the argument that they discriminate against the disabled population in a segregated work environment.
If the proposal goes through it could affect 110 adults with disabilities from attending day programs and prevocational training, said Jeff Aerts, CEO and president of Northwoods Inc. of Wisconsin.
In a warm, love-filled address Friday, internationally recognized advocate for the disabled, Evelyne Villines, told a crowd of about 300 people gathered at Jefferson County Fair Park they should always work hard, take pride in themselves and set a good example for others.
In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, disabled people from throughout the Midwest met as part of the grassroots advocacy event to hear Villines' message, socialize and celebrate their contribution as productive members of America's workforce.
We Are All Connected features 3 individuals who are experiencing success on the job with ODC's assistance. ODC's mission is to empower people with disabilities to achieve their work and life goals.