The term “sheltered workshop” is an antiquated term used in the past to describe programs for people with disabilities that provided work in a “sheltered” environment. These programs are called center-based employment services, day training and habilitation programs, or more generally as day programs. Public funds, generally through Medicaid waiver or county dollars, provide coverage for these services. There is no current plan in Minnesota to close these types of services. However, there are many policies and plans in Minnesota that are increasing their focus on community integration and competitive, integrated employment. Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan, Employment First Policy, and other directives from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), and Department of Education and the Rehabilitation Services Administration are increasing their expectations of integration and outcomes related to employment and participation for people with disabilities. As a result, there is a focus in Minnesota to ensure that people with disabilities are supported in the most inclusive environments of their choice, sometimes that matches parent or guardian would want and others times it does not.
While day programs in Minnesota are not going to “close” in the traditional sense in the near future, providers are being expected to work closely with individuals, families, and state funders to ensure that people are supported in inclusive community-based settings, and that could look different than it has in years past.
There are many benefits for people who work in their communities, including:
Feeling more connected to the greater community. People who work report having a higher number of friendships and connections to people without disabilities through work.
Believing more in their abilities. Working allows people to challenge themselves and reach their maximum potential. They have higher expectations of what they can accomplish, and this feeling spreads to other areas of life outside of work.
Having better health and sense of well-being. Working allows for people to be active, and people report feeling better about themselves because of it.
Having meaning in their lives. Having a job allows for people to be engaged with their communities. People feel engaged in meaningful activities that help those around them.
Making money. People with developmental disabilities make significantly less money than workers without developmental disabilities. They often live in or near poverty, but having a paying job helps supplement resources and improve their quality of life.
Many people with disabilities worry that if they go to work, they’ll lose their health care coverage and disability benefits. This is a myth – it’s not true. You may be afraid that you will lose your benefits if you work. You may be concerned about how to get your benefits back if you stop working or need to work fewer hours because of your disability. We want to give you the facts about those myths so you will feel comfortable and safe beginning or returning to work, and so you won’t worry about losing your benefits before you are ready.
The Social Security Administration has built many safeguards into their benefit programs that will let you begin working without losing your benefits. These safeguards are ways to keep your cash benefits and health insurance benefits.
There are also several programs that help people with disabilities prepare for and find jobs. For example:
If you’re a person with a disability who wants to work, there are many resources and programs to help you.
Disability Hub MN is a free statewide resource network that helps you solve problems, navigate the system and plan for your future. They can be reached at (866)333-2466 or at www.mn.db101.org
On July 1, 2018, Minnesota added three employment services to its HCBS waivers: employment exploration services, employment development services and employment support services. These services are available with the Developmental Disabilities (DD), Community Alternative Care (CAC), Community Access for Disability Inclusion (CADI) and Brain Injury (BI) waivers. The three employment services have unique purposes:
Employment exploration services: Community-based services work to introduce people with disabilities to employment opportunities in the community. This allows people with disabilities to explore career interests and experiences and make an informed choice about working in an integrated setting.
Employment development services: These services are individualized and help people find employment, whether it be in a competitive and integrated setting, self-employment or creating a microenterprise in their community.
Employment support services: These services are individualized to help people maintain employment in the community. The services may help with transportation, job training, coaching to strengthen work skills and various forms of advocacy with an employer.
Many job seekers and families find themselves on waiting lists for vocational rehabilitation (VR), Medicaid waivers, or with a specific provider. It can be frustrating, especially when a job seeker is eager to get to work. However, it doesn’t mean that a job seeker or family member can’t take action now. There are things you can do to help find a job or develop experiences and skills that could be useful while you’re waiting on a waiting list. A few things to consider: 1) Keep the job seeker’s resume up to date. 2) Write down a list of contacts, neighbors, friends, or families–look at who you know and where there might be places to inquire about job, internship, work experience, or volunteer experience. 3) Keep busy with volunteering or other community activities or hobbies to gain experience. 4) Ask friends or family about job openings they might know about, be willing to follow up with a call or visit.
While providers and formal services do provide additional supports to help find, keep, and maintain a job, it doesn’t mean they have all the answers. You don’t have to wait for formal services, there are things you can do today to gain work experience or build connections for employment.
Providers may help people make informed choices about whether or not to pursue employment by:
Using person-centered practices to discuss the opportunity to work with people regularly discussing the positive outcomes of employment, including meeting people, learning skills and making money.
Helping people to learn about how work will affect their benefits. Resources for people include case workers, Disability Hub MN and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) counselors.
Supporting people whether they want to seek work or not. If people decide they want to work, they may make informed choices about their next steps by examining their strengths and interests to help identify potential jobs, researching work opportunities and networking to get assistance and learn about job prospects. People may also get help exploring work from family, case managers and providers.
If people decide not to seek employment, providers should routinely review with them their right to work. This practice of periodically returning to the topic allows providers to keep up with changes in people’s needs or preferences.
There are many types of job supports that are offered by agencies, services providers, and organizations. Personal Assistance Services (PAS), job coaches, and vocational rehabilitation counselors all offer additional supports to people with disabilities to make sure that their transition to work and participation in the workforce is a success.
Apply for Services – Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation
To apply for services from Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation, call or visit a vocational rehabilitation counselor at a Minnesota CareerForce location.
No, in most cases there will not be 1:1 job coaching support. Job coaches will tailor the support needs to the individual, and foster natural supports from their supervisor and co-workers on site.
Waiver transportation providers including taxis, van services and volunteer drivers offer options for people to access their communities and lead fulfilling and productive lives. Resources for transportation services can be found at MnHelp.info. Further information about key agencies and organizations that provide waiver transportation in Minnesota
can be found in Appendix A: Agency and organization overview on pages 94-96 of this Legislative Report (PDF).
In areas where public transportation is scarce, providers may also work with their local waiver transportation agency or county government to explore potential grant funding or regional partnerships that might be created. Searching out area volunteer driver programs or creating a new one by engaging family, friends and staff is an option for providers seeking to expand transportation opportunities. Depending on the situation, providers might also take other approaches, such as partnering with nearby agencies to rideshare, creating a bicycle-sharing program or asking community members to carpool to community events or activities.
Transportation to community events and activities can be limited in a rural area. Some providers have purchased their own accessible vehicles. Some providers have used grant funding or volunteer drivers. And some have rented vehicles to increase options for community participation. Where available, providers also use public transportation and bus routes to access community events, as well as agency vehicles, Uber and Lyft.