Disabled file class action against State of Oregon

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by Steve Larson

The United Cerebral Palsy Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington along with eight individuals representing thousands of Oregonians with intellectual or physical disabilities filed a class action lawsuit on January 25, 2012 against Governor John Kitzhaber and top managers at the Department of Human Services.

Advocates hope the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Portland, will set a national precedent and end the practice of having people with disabilities spend their days in “sheltered workshops,” where they complete repetitive or rote tasks for a sub-minimum wage and without the opportunity for training or advancement.

At any given time, according to the lawsuit, more than 2,300 Oregonians are “stuck in long-term, dead-end, facility based sheltered workshops that offer virtually no interaction with non-disabled peers.”

The lawsuit argues that confining people in segregated workshops violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

The State of Oregon currently spends $30 million a year on sheltered workshops for people with disabilities.  Over time it would be much cheaper for taxpayers and better for individuals for the state to fund programs that help people with disabilities work in jobs that pay minimum wage or better, said Bob Joondeph, executive director of Disability Rights Oregon and an attorney for the plaintiffs.