On April 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division announced that it has entered into a statewide settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island that addresses violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for approximately 3,250 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In its press release, the DOJ calls the settlement agreement a "landmark" and the nation's first statewide settlement to address the rights of people with disabilities to receive state funded employment and daytime services in the broader community, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. Under the settlement agreement, two thousand Rhode Islanders with I/DD who are currently in segregated programs will have opportunities to work in competitve employment. Additionally, over the next decade, 1,250 students with I/DD will receive transitions services to support their entry into the workforce.
The agreement is the result of an ADA investigation that began in January 2013 into Rhode Island’s day activity service system for people with I/DD. The department, the state, and the City of Providence entered into an interim settlement agreement in June 2013. The interim settlement agreement focused on a single provider, which was one of the largest facility-based employment service providers in the state’s system, and a school-based sheltered workshop at a Providence, R.I., high school, which was a point of origin for many people entering the provider’s workshop. In January 2014, the DOJ issued findings determining that the statewide system over-relied on segregated services, to the exclusion of integrated alternatives, in violation of the ADA.
Under the agreement, Rhode Island has agreed to provide:
- Supported employment placements that are individual, typical jobs in the community, that pay at least minimum wage, and that offer employment for the maximum number of hours consistent with the person’s abilities and preferences, amounting to an average of at least 20 hours per week across the target population;
- Supports for integrated non-work activities for times when people are not at work including mainstream educational, leisure or volunteer activities that use the same community centers, libraries, recreational, sports and educational facilities that are available to everyone;
- Transition services for students with I/DD, to start at age 14, and to include internships, job site visits and mentoring, enabling students to leave school prepared for jobs in the community at competitive wages;
- Significant funding sustained over a ten year period that redirects funds currently used to support services in segregated settings to those that incentivize services in integrated settings.