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  • Writer's pictureGrace Anne Alfiero

Obsolete Then, Obsolete Now!

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

On April 8, 2014, the Justice Department announced it entered into an agreement that will resolve violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for approximately 3,250 Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The landmark ten year agreement is the nation’s first statewide settlement to address the rights of people with disabilities to receive state funded employment and daytime services in the broader community, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs.

Approximately 450,000 people with I/DD across the country spend their days in segregated sheltered workshops or in segregated day programs. The agreement significantly advances the department’s work to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C, which requires persons with I/DD be served in the most integrated setting appropriate .

As a result of the settlement, 2,000 Rhode Islanders with I/DD who are currently being served by segregated programs will have opportunities to work in real jobs at competitive wages. Additionally, over the next ten years, 1,250 students with I/DD will receive services to help transition into the workforce.

Here’s hoping the rest of the country follows Rhode Island’s lead! In 1995, I started Creative Clay Cultural Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida with my then business partner, Danielle Sangita Despathy Rottenberg mainly because we both felt that there was a better way to assist persons with I/DD with skill building and employment training…almost 20 years later, it’s wonderful to see that there is movement toward making sheltered workshops obsolete for good!

(Some of the content on this post was taken from page 16 of the Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered Spring 2014 newsletter,

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