Release Date: 
Monday, July 29, 2013
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

National Federation of the Blind: Workforce Investment Act Sabotages Rehabilitation Act

Proposed Changes Would Trap Disabled Workers in Subminimum-Wage Employment, Threaten Rehabilitation System

Baltimore, Maryland (July 29, 2013): The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind people, expressed its strong opposition to changes to the Rehabilitation Act contained in the proposed Workforce Investment Act (S.1356), which has been introduced in the United States Senate and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the HELP Committee).  The bill is scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The proposed changes to the Rehabilitation Act contained in the Workforce Investment Act reauthorization will do irreparable damage to our nation’s rehabilitation system and to the blind people and other Americans with disabilities whom it serves.  Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the HELP Committee chairman, is leading the effort to include a new provision, Section 511, which would, for the first time, authorize rehabilitation agencies to place workers with disabilities in subminimum-wage employment.  This provision purports to introduce protections to limit the number of youth with disabilities who are placed in subminimum wage employment, but will have the unintended effect of trapping people with disabilities in dead-end, segregated, subminimum-wage jobs with the blessing of the rehabilitation system.  We urge that this section be removed in its entirety. 
“We also oppose ranking committee member Senator Lamar Alexander’s effort to move the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) from the Department of Education to the Department of Labor.  Rehabilitation is a comprehensive program serving people with disabilities from childhood to adulthood, so it should remain within the jurisdiction of the Department of Education.  Furthermore, the HELP Committee has provided no analysis or evidence showing that this change would increase employment of people with disabilities.  At the very least, such a dramatic move requires study and analysis.  We strongly urge members of the HELP Committee and the Senate to oppose these radical and unwarranted changes to our nation’s rehabilitation programs.”