As parents, we tend to develop a laser focus on our young children’s education, wanting to provide them with the best foundation for their lives as adults. Historically, not as much thought was given to their transition from secondary school to adulthood – how to directly train and assist our children to become active, community-minded adults who can live as independently as possible. More recently, emphasis has been placed on preparing students with disabilities to be able to attend college, find meaningful employment, and live independently as Congress added secondary transition services requirements in IDEA 2004. This message seems to be being heard loud and clear on many levels.
President Obama’s recent Executive Order raising the minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 for workers under future federal contracts includes an important provision to protect adults with disabilities. Under the current law, those workers whose productivity are affected by their disabilities are allowed to be paid less than others doing the same job. Under President Obama’s Executive Order, each and every individual working under future federal contracts will be protected by the same $10.10 minimum hourly wage regardless of disability.
A recent survey by the Special Olympics conducted by Gallup and the University of Massachusetts found that only 44% of cognitively impaired adults are currently working or looking for work with only 34% actually working, a percentage which has not changed in forty years. Hopefully, those numbers will soon be changing for the better. As parents and school districts become better educated about transition services and training to better assist our young adult children to transition into adulthood, it not only empowers our adult children who may have been denied employment or unpaid previously, but strengthens our entire economy and provides more diversity in the workforce.
(Originally posted by Sherry Rajaniemi-Gregg – February 22, 2014)