By Harris Capps and Joan Kelley
Sheltered Workshops are private non-profit, state, or local government entities that provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Persons served in this environment may include those with developmental, physical, and/or mental impairments, ranging from mild to extreme/profoundly affected individuals. Sheltered workshops:
- Provide prevocational training, with the goal to prepare for competitive employment for available jobs in the open labor market
- Emphasize support of individual needs, based on ability to choose work activities that fit with a person’s skills
- Often include additional training in personal care, living skills and developing social skills
- Honor the depth and scope of the DD population, recognizing that some individuals may not ever be able to be competitively employed
After completing a rehabilitation program, many individuals are able to leave the workshop environment and enter regular employment, if there is a job available for which they qualify. Individuals unable to obtain regular employment because of the severity of their impairments or unavailability of jobs can remain in the workshop environment. Individuals performing services are paid a fraction of, or up to minimum wage, depending on their capacity to perform the services. 
In March of 2018, the National Council on Disability issued a position paper, "Beyond Guardianship, Toward Alternatives That Promote Greater Self-Determination". In September, VOR's Issues Oversight Committee submitted a report on our position and findings regarding that report.
VOR's Response is available to download here
Issues to Consider Regarding Guardianship and Supported Decision Making
By VOR's Issues and Oversight Committee on Guardianship Rights
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their parents, family members and guardians may have heard about Supported Decision-Making (SDM), an initiative that could affect their decision-making rights. Some see SDM as an alternative to guardianship, while others view it as an attempt to remove the legal instrument that provides a safety net for vulnerable individuals.
VOR is a national organization that advocates for high quality care and human rights for individuals with I/DD. We understand the valuable role that guardians play in the emotional and physical well-being of their wards. As advocates who appreciate the diversity of the I/DD community and the need for a wide array of supports, we want to ensure that guardians and family members are aware of the issues connected to Supported Decision-Making so that they can make informed decisions about the care of their loved one with disabilities.
Policy favoring deinstitutionalization has had a major adverse effect on many individuals, with a shift in funding priorities from Medicaid Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICFs/IID) and other specialized facilities, to smaller service options, such as Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) settings.
By Tamie Hopp, VOR Director of Government Relations & Advocacy in Nonprofit Quarterly, July 16, 2014 (and reprinted in the Summer 2014 Nonprofit Quarterly Print edition)
Early reforms were quite properly motivated by the need for a system of care and supports that responded to the very individualized and diverse needs of the entire population of people with I/DD. These reforms, however, also set the stage for decades of ongoing deinstitutionalization, resulting in the elimination of specialized housing, employment and education options for people with I/DD, leaving some to question the price of “progress.”