On February 27, Independence Fellow Julie Foster offered testimony at the Philadelphia City Council hearing on employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Only 22% of individuals with disabilities in Philadelphia are employed, with several major barriers standing in the way.
“The first challenge is obtaining funding for services, which are principally provided through the Medicaid waiver system,” Ms. Foster said. “Currently there are more than 14,000 people on the wait list for the Medicaid Person/Family Directed Support waiver.”
A second challenge is that a majority of those who do obtain Medicaid waiver funding end up in sheltered workshops or adult day programs where adults with intellectual, developmental and other disabilities spend their days segregated, with little to no interaction with non-disabled peers. According to Ms. Foster, such segregated settings violate the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Another issue is that in some instances employees do not clearly communicate their need for an accommodation, do not understand their rights to an accommodation, or fear retaliation. Similarly, employers do not always understand their obligations or know about resources for accommodations in the workplace.
Ms. Foster said, “I call on City Council to take action to communicate resources and to mandate Philadelphia businesses are accessible to all. City Council has a legislative opportunity to increase employment opportunities by addressing exclusion in Philadelphia businesses and organizations.”
The Law Center has long represented individuals with all kinds of disabilities, including visual, intellectual, deafness, and physical. Ms. Foster represents and advises low-income individuals with disabilities on employment discrimination matters through the Law Center’s Disability Employment Discrimination Project.