Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania

The Americans with Disabilities Act marks its 25th anniversary this month, and a Pennsylvania lawmaker says a bill of rights for those with disabilities is “long overdue.”

Legislation filed by State Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery, Philadelphia) would institute a bill of rights, promising people with disabilities the necessary support to live as independently and actively within their communities as possible, including making their own decisions on living arrangements and other support services.

The Pennsylvania House Committee on Human Services heard from mental health workers and advocates Thursday about the challenges faced by those living with mental illness. The main topic was the stigma surrounding mental illness. That stigma, according to each speaker, is a major barrier to health care.

Thousands of Disabled Workers Legally Paid Sub-Minimum Wage

Jul 31, 2014
Martha Rial / PublicSource

About 13,000 disabled Pennsylvania workers are being paid far below minimum wage, earning an average of $2.40 an hour in legal sub-minimum wages, according to a recent PublicSource article by Halle Stockton.

Does this practice provide opportunities for people who wouldn't otherwise have a job? Or does it exploit those who could work for minimum wage?

Stockton says these workers are legally paid sub-minimum wages and are supervised by mostly non-disabled workers. Stockton says the working conditions can range from work programs on beautiful campuses, to those of industrial settings.

No matter the conditions, however, Stockton says the pay is based on “pieces.”

“This is all piecework. You get paid for every box of paper you shred; you get paid twenty cents. Or every jewelry box, eleven cents. So, these supervisors are watching and recording that. This person completed three this hour, or completed four, and that’s what translates into your paycheck.”

Curtis Decker is the Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network. He says people don’t apply for jobs they don’t have the skill set for. Decker does not approve of these sub-minimum wage programs but still believes people need the training so they can realize their greater potential.

Al Condeluci: A CLASS Act

Oct 15, 2013
Community Living and Support Services

For many people, college is their first taste of independent living.

For more than 40 years, Al Condeluci, CEO and executive director of CLASS, the organization once known as United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), has made it his mission, to see that people with disabilities enjoy the freedom of living on their own.

This year he's being honored by the UCP as a community hero for all of his work.

Transitioning to a New Generation of Playgrounds

Oct 14, 2013
Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Narrow slides and flimsy swings are what most people think of when they hear the word playground. But based on a 2010 court ruling, those trademarks of the past are changing. The US Department of Justice made access to play areas a civil right under the Americans with Disabilities Act and new standards took effect last year.

Public Source Reporter Halle Stockton reports that the playgrounds that are required to make these changes are new or majorly reformed playgrounds that began modifications after March 15.

But many playgrounds have already altered their equipment to fit the needs of all children. Some of these changes include a smooth ground surface that's usually rubberized to prevent injuries. You'll also find play structures with ramps along with wide pathways so that children on wheelchairs or a cane can maneuver throughout. The swings also have “rollercoaster seats” to provide back support for children with low muscle tone.

The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on behalf of prisoners with serious mental illness alleging prisoners were not given adequate treatment in solitary confinement.

The lawsuit alleges the Department of Corrections violates the Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by isolating them in solitary confinement and not offering them sufficient or proper treatment.