Statement from Kirk Adams, President and CEO, American Foundation for the Blind
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 1, 2019)—On January 31, Rep. Bobby Scott, Sen. Bob Casey, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, which provides states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with the resources to help workers with disabilities transition into competitive, integrated employment. This legislation is designed to strengthen and enhance the disability employment service delivery systems throughout states, while subminimum wages, currently allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, are to be phased out over a six-year period.
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) supports this legislation. We are strongly committed to competitive, integrated employment in mainstream environments 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 and that they should receive fair and equitable wages for their work.
In 2018, AFB was designated as a Central Nonprofit Agency by the AbilityOne Commission with the aim of increasing job placement and career advancement in knowledge-based careers through newly established pathways to mainstream, competitive, integrated employment. This designation was predicated upon a need to advance those systems which enable employment and economic security for people with disabilities. Currently, the legal exception allowing employers to pay lower wages to individuals on the basis of their disability lowers expectations and perpetuates a system of discrimination that stymies individuals’ potential for fulfillment and self-sufficiency. Therefore, the exception should be eliminated.
We acknowledge that people with disabilities currently earning a subminimum wage will not be best served by immediately eliminating the special certificates issued under 14(c) without time for preparation and appropriate supports. Therefore, we applaud these efforts to ensure a gradual phase-out of the certificates, financial support to state governments and existing certificate holders, and the provision of technical assistance and data collection.
This multi-tiered approach will assist employees with disabilities to enter competitive, integrated employment while receiving the necessary wraparound supports to complete their transition and minimize the impact of the phase-out on those businesses and community programs that have provided employment through subminimum wages. By focusing on integrated employment as well as wage parity, these grants should encourage new innovations in employment and service delivery in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
On behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind, we commend Members of Congress Scott, Casey, and McMorris Rodgers for their leadership and commitment to equitable employment for people with disabilities, and particularly those who are blind or visually impaired. We look forward to seeing progress on this issue and to working together to advance the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act.
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 house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org