RI Senate Would Require Governor's Workforce Board to Plan Jobs for Disabled

By Gina Macris

The Governor’s Workforce Board in Rhode Island would be required to include individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in its initiatives, policies and actions involving workforce development, under provisions of a bill that has passed the Senate.                                 

The legislation (2016-S 2476), introduced by Sen. William J. Conley, Jr., (D-East Providence and Pawtucket) also would add representatives of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to the Career Pathways Advisory Committee of the Governor’s Workforce Board.

Similar legislation (2016-H 8035) has been introduced in the Rhode Island House by Rep. Gregg Amore (D-East Providence). 

“This is an opportunity for us to transform our workforce systems in a planned fashion to transition adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities into community-integrated settings,” Conley said in a statement.  

In the last six months, the U.S. Department of Justice and an independent court monitor have  turned to the U.S. District Court for assistance in enforcing terms of a two-year-old consent decree in which Rhode Island agreed to stop violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by phasing out sheltered workshops that paid subminimum wages to adults with disabilities. 

In place of segregated employment and day programs, the state agreed to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities find and keep jobs in the community and participate in integrated non-work activities. 

Title II of the ADA, underscored by the so-called Olmstead decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999,  in essence says that individuals with developmental disabilities have a right to live, work, and play in their communities, just like anyone else. 

“This bill affords individuals with disabilities the same access to job training and career opportunities as all other Rhode Islanders,” Conley said, acknowledging that the state “has done little to help the developmentally disabled find gainful employment.” 

The Governor’s Workforce Board is the primary policy-making body for workforce development issues in Rhode Island, with authority to allocate state Job Development Funds and federaltraining funds under provisions of Title I-B of the federal Workforce Investment Act.