In a speech focused on supporting job prospects for people with disabilities, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton promised to make colleges and universities more accessible and to eliminate laws that allow employers to pay certain workers below minimum wage.
“We can’t be satisfied, not when 60 percent of people with disabilities are not in the
workforce,” Clinton said Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. “We’ve got to build an inclusive economy that welcomes people with disabilities, values their work, [and] treats them with respect.”
Clinton said that she would fight for people with disabilities to work alongside people without disabilities, for the same salary and benefits. Many youth and adults with intellectual disabilities are employed in segregated settings. (In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice came to a landmark settlement with the Providence, R.I., school district over its use of “sheltered workshops” for youth with disabilities. Those students are now more fully integrated into school.)
The subminimum wage, which allows employers to pay some workers’ salaries as low as a few cents an hour, is a vestige from an “ugly, ignorant past,” Clinton said.
Clinton also reminded the audience of her “Autism Works” proposal, which was released in January as part of a birth-through-adulthood approach to supporting people with autism. Autism Works would include post-graduation transition planning for every student with autism and a public-private partnership with potential employers. (Such transition planning is actually already required for all students with disabilities as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.)
Though autism does not represent the largest disability category under the IDEA (that is “specific learning disabilities,” such as dyslexia), autism is the fastest-growing.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.