Finding proper job and wage for disabled [Letter]

June 29, 2014

Congratulations to The Sun for its balanced reporting of the many complexities of the subminimum wage issue and its acknowledgment that a phase-out needs to be gradual so that no individual loses opportunity or earnings ("'Subminimum wage' for disabled workers called exploitative," June 14).

The Arc Baltimore, whose mission is, in part, is to expand and diversify employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is encouraged at the progress we've seen for those in jobs earning at or above minimum wage and at companies that are in the community, not in segregated workshops. In fact, the majority of people to whom we provide employment support earn above minimum wage.

We also have some contracts that, while they enable people with significant disabilities to work, pay below minimum wage, in part, because their productivity is well below the norm. Rather than simply consign these individuals to a less interesting (and non-paying) activity program, we want to meet the challenge of designing a system in which they can continue working and earn a full wage. Perhaps, some type of wage subsidy or a tax credit for private employers could enable a minimum wage for all.

Our other challenge is to convince more companies to provide opportunities for the many who wish to work. Employers who have welcomed workers with disabilities quickly realize that doing so is not a charitable deed. It's good business because these employees are productive, happy to be working and have attendance and safety records well above the norm. They add to the bottom line not just economically but by enriching the workplace with a different form of diversity. We used to think it was about finding the right person for the job. In reality, it's about finding the right job for the person.

Stephen H. Morgan, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of The Arc Baltimore.

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