Washington, DC (September 22, 2020)—The American Foundation for the Blind applauds the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' report on Subminimum Wages: Impacts on the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities and its call for an end to the Section 14(c) exemption to the minimum wage in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. We believe that by allowing employers to pay lower wages to individuals on the basis of their disability, this 80-year old legal exception lowers expectations and perpetuates a system of discrimination that stymies individuals’ potential for fulfillment and self-sufficiency.
In 2019, AFB endorsed the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, which would grant states and private entities funding to transform job opportunities for people currently paid a subminimum wage. AFB recognizes that time and appropriate supports for individuals with disabilities are a necessary prerequisite to eliminating the current subminimum wage system, and are glad to see that the Commission's report recommends that Congress should repeal Section 14(c) with a planned phase-out period to allow transition among service providers and people with disabilities to alternative service models prioritizing competitive integrated employment.
We are strongly committed to competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities, particularly the more than 26 million Americans who are visually impaired, and believe this workforce to be fully capable of working in typical integrated settings receiving fair and equitable wages for their work. As part of AFB’s commitment to changing the way employers see job seekers and employees who are blind or have low vision, AFB's Public Policy and Research Institute conducted a literature review on employment and workers with disabilities that highlighted the barriers that people face in obtaining and keeping employment. We are committed to creating systems that eliminate those barriers and support people with disabilities, including by improving their access to mentoring and expanded networks—two key predictors of employment success. Learn more about our Blind Leaders Development Program.
We commend the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for their leadership and commitment to equitable employment for people with disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired. We look forward to seeing progress on this issue and to working together to advance the transition to alternative service models prioritizing competitive integrated employment.
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About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org