Some concerned about changes to sheltered workshops – New York News


First of two parts

Vincent Femia, 32, got a job right after he graduated from Sauquoit Valley High School in 2006.

The job was in a workplace known as a sheltered workshop, in which people with disabilities work and are paid according to their abilities even if that ends up being well below minimum wage.

Femia, who has a developmental disability, continues to be employed in a workshop run by the Arc, Oneida-Lewis Chapter in Utica.

His mother, Patty, never really considered other options for her son.

“I thought the workshop at that point was a good option for Vincent,” she said. “He’s nonverbal and he needs people to understand that. It was a good fit for him. It was such a smooth transition that he went from high school, going to school every day, to going to the workshop every day.” 

It’s a comfort to her family to know that Femia is in a safe environment. And since he doesn’t speak, he likes to keep busy, she said.

“By doing things, he feels like he belongs and he feels productive. … So it’s just a good fit for him,” she said.

But people with developmental disabilities graduating from high school no longer have the option of going to work in a sheltered workshop.

The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities has been making broad changes to the way people with developmental disabilities receive services to “provide supports that are fully integrated into every person’s community, are person-centered, and are focused on each individual’s needs and preferences,” according to an office document.

As part of those changes, the office…

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