Concerned parent, Carol Winter, weighs in on the how H.R. 188 will affect her son.

Read her letter to Wisconsin legislators:

Dear Senator Legislators:

I am writing on behalf of my son, John, a resident of WI, and an enthusiastic participant in the services of Greenco Industries, a sheltered workshop in Monroe. I am writing to ask that you vote NO when H.R.188 comes out of committee and reaches the Senate.

While I applaud your fellow Republican Rep. Gregg Harper’s intentions in sponsoring the Bill, and the intent of the Bill to expand community-based options and to pay a fair wage to the DD population, it is crucial that it does not force a one-size-fits-all solution on issues that are extremely complex, confusing opportunities with mandates which will reduce choices for individuals who already have so little from which to choose.

It is the first option that integrated, competitive employment be the first choice for every individual at Greenco Industries. Before moving back to the Monroe area, John lived in Madison, and his service provider fought diligently for SEVEN YEARS to secure employment in the community to no avail. John spent his days at the mall, in the office, watching movies, finger painting (which he hates) – pretty much doing nothing. The only activity he enjoyed was the volunteer “job” I secured for him…delivering Meals on Wheels to shut ins, for which he was paid…nothing.

Perhaps I am under-informed. Will there be any employer who will pay any worker minimum wage if they can not perform at expected levels. Will you or any of the members of Congress who will be voting in favor of this Bill be willing to hire any of the individuals who will be sitting at home if sheltered workshops are forced to close?

Can we be honest? This Bill is aimed at closing sheltered workshops by attaching Medicaid funding to less restrictive services. Advocates claim it will save money. When there is no safety net, the 400,000 who are left without any type of employment services will require more public assistance, not less.

It has been tried…and FAILED.

Maine. In 2008, a state law went into effect converting sheltered workshop employment into supported employment. According to a report by the Chimes Foundation and George Washington University, 2/3 of those previously employed in sheltered workshops are no longer employed and those who are working are earning less because they are working fewer hours. The numbers of those working in supported employment declined from 2001 to 2014. They are working an average of 12 hours a week instead of 20-40.

Vermont. Six years after sheltered workshops were eliminated there, just 36% of the people formerly employed in them found jobs in the open market. They averaged just 10 hours a week, again instead of 20-40.

How many times are we going to repeat this experiment before the government and advocates (and ideologues) admit that some people will not be able to succeed in integrated employment?

Some disabled choose to limit contact with environments which overwhelm them… some could be vulnerable to victimization. Some in the community simply do not want to associate with those who are mentally, cognitively, or physically disabled. My son is on the spectrum, and even though his appearance is typical, since he was a small child I have seen mothers pull their children away, avoid eye contact, even act as if his autism was contagious

Advocates say this is a generational argument, that we “older moms” are afraid of change. Well, Senator, I have seen and adapted to more changes in my son’s lifetime than you can imagine…some have gone full circle. I haven’t always been a supporter of sheltered workshops. Greenco Industries changed my mind. It fulfills many facets of life requirements necessary for happiness for my son. Work, friendship, exercise, relaxation, stability, a sense of productivity and worth.

In a perfect world, John would be President. Change the world first. Don’t use the disabled as tools to force political correctness. Put politics aside and do what is right for your constituents who have no voice in the political system.


Carole Winter

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