What Matter Most Campaign
Respecting options and expanding
opportunities for people with disabilities
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We Want To Hear Your Story!

Your story is critical to the campaign. Tell us about the importance of your job, why having choices is essential to your success where you live, work and learn.

We also want to hear about the activities and efforts in your area to make sure your voice is heard, and what you are doing to reach out to friends, neighbors, and policy makers. What efforts are you taking in your area to ensure your voice is heard? How are you reaching out to friends, neighbors, and policy makers? Check out our Go Local page to see what is going on in local communities across the country!

See stories from others in the area below. You can share your story in a video, photo, or your own words. 


Jim's Story
While working at Bank of America in Bakersfield, CA a colleague invited me to lunch and then took me to the Bakersfield ARC (BARC) where I met the E.D. and many Clients. I toured the facilities and the smiles of the focused workers (adults with IDD) and their gratefulness for having a job &/or people to care for them melted my heart. I told my colleague, “…anything, anytime, anywhere you need me I’ll be there…”! Four years later he called me to ask if I would be on the board of directors. I was a board member for eight years. I just started my 15th year as the President and CEO of BARC. My story has only deepened in my concern for the people we have the privilege to serve because the government is going to ruin many lives with their thoughtless arrogance of “…We Know Better Than You….”! They Do NOT Know Better. At BARC, we have been Giving People Purpose® for over 66 years. The government gives no one a purpose let alone people with IDD and their families.

Barbara's Story
My nephew, Michael, has worked at a work center for the past 12 years. This has provided him with a place to work, socialize and feel a sense of self-worth for a job well done. Closing centers that provide all of the above seems an unwise move. Instead of this, we should be encouraging businesses to provide more work opportunities for these most fragile of our citizens. Let's find the funding needed to keep these centers open. Our disabled citizens need us to do this! 
Lynn & Stuart's Story
The determination by DDD to close sheltered workshops is one that will be detrimental to many of the people currently gainfully employed by these entities.  While the premise of promoting the least restrictive environment for individuals with disabilities is admirable, the actual practice of eliminating some of the programs that currently work so well for so many is both upsetting and unfair. The state must take into account that not everyone can operate in totally integrated environments,  and  the employment opportunities in New Jersey are limited for even the fully able.  I would hope the state would reconsider their decision and solicit feed back from families that are affected.  Surely there must be a better solution!!

Concerned Citizen's Story
It is very discouraging to again see that the government is taking over another public entity it knows nothing about: workshops for disabled adults. These centers provide opportunities for disabled adults to interact with their peers, as well as, hold a steady job for minute pay.  Closing these centers would be taking away from a population who is already at a disadvantage.
In an ideal world all disabled adults could work out in the community, but that is simply a fantasy. First, whenever a company is downsizing these adults are the first to go. I have seen this firsthand. Several of my former students and brother's friends have been "let go" due to cuts. Then it is back to square one. Finding a new job and training. Oh, yes, training. It is quite costly to have a job coach available for each shift. Who will pick up that cost? Also, the amount of hours disabled adults are given in an out in the community placement do not come close to the 30 hours a week at an adult workshop. So, what do you propose they do to keep stimulated? Oh, that's not your responsibility I am sure.
Special Education has always been individualized, so why is the government changing it now? Some adults can work in the community and some need a more restricted environment just like in schools. We are not all created the same, we do not all learn the same, and we do not all work the same. Please stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. This new proposal will not fit the needs of all disabled adults and taking away their right to work and choose where they work is simply Un-American. 

Letter to Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins
Date: March 31, 2015
To: Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins
rom:  Parent of a Cottonwood, Inc. Consumer  

Good Morning Congresswoman Jenkins.  I am so sorry I could not be there today personally to greet you and thank you for coming to Cottonwood.  I would however like to give you my brief perspective on the issues you are here today to discuss.    
My daughter is a Cottonwood consumer and right now we have a win-win situation with Cottonwood’s Work Center.  My daughter and other consumers are able to have gainful, meaningful and important work to do for the United States Department of Defense, and numerous regional and national companies.  The way my daughter is able to have this job is because of the careful time studies Cottonwood conducts.  Cottonwood conducts a yearly survey of area businesses to determine what the prevailing wage will be.  The results of that survey, along with the time studies that Cottonwood conducts on each of its jobs, determines the piece rates for the various work that my daughter and her friends complete.  They get paid the equivalent of the non-disabled competitive wage based on their productivity.  Those wages allow Cottonwood to secure these important contracts that provide these jobs.  Eliminating the sub-minimum wage exemption and paying my daughter a higher wage for this work would make no sense.  She cannot produce at a faster pace, so if Cottonwood were required to pay minimum wage, they could not bid the jobs competitively.  If that happened Cottonwood would not be able to secure these contracts, and my daughter and her friends would all be out of work.    

The other issue I believe you will be hearing about is the “settings” issue and whether or not our workplace is open and accessible and that my daughter and other consumers are able to have choice as far as working there or not.  My daughter absolutely has choices.  Right now she chooses to work at Cottonwood.  She goes back and forth with that, and sometimes in her ideal world she would like to work at Cottonwood part time and have a community job part time.  She has not wanted a community job for the last couple of years however, as most of her community work experiences have not been positive.  

She has held several community jobs over the last two decades since she finished high school.  She has been let go from all but one.  Her childcare job did not work out because she could not anticipate when a child would be in danger.  She would go pick up and console the toddlers after a fall, but she could not anticipate that climbing on the chair would result in a fall, so she did not prevent the child from climbing.  Her fast food jobs did not work out because she could not remember or follow more than one or two instructions at a time.  When her job coach was there she was told what to do each step, but once the coach was gone, she would often just wait to be told what to do.  That required almost constant supervision, which reduced productivity among the other staff members.  She was being paid the same wage as those staff members, and they would often resent needing to help my daughter with her work, or having to constantly remind her of what to do.  She was let go from both of her fast food jobs.  She tried clerical work, but could not manage more than one phone line at a time, and would frequently hang up on people or leave them on hold if she did not know the answer to their question.  She could do a little filing but again her speed was an issue.  She worked at the library putting away DVDs and CDs, but she would lose focus and her speed was an issue there too.  When she is corrected or critiqued she tends to either withdraw and refuses to go back to work, or she speaks out inappropriately to her supervisors and co-workers.  She has not found a good job fit in the community yet, though she may want to pursue a part time community job again in the future.  If that day comes, both Cottonwood and her family will support her in that endeavor, but until that happens she enjoys her work at Cottonwood.   

While I don’t think my daughter is atypical, a number of consumers are able to have part time community jobs, and be successful.  Even for those who do hold part time jobs however, the vast majority want to 
continue to work at Cottonwood part time because that is where their social life is.  They may be supported and accepted by their mainstream community employers, and Cottonwood has a number of awesome community partners, but the employees at those companies typically do not spend time with consumers after work or on weekends.  Consumers do not become close friends with the staff at their community jobs.  Their friends are other consumers at Cottonwood, and that is where they create their social life.  Consumers like my daughter need the social networking opportunities that their Cottonwood workplace gives them.  That is where they have friends (and even an occasional romance), that is where they organize activities.  That is where they make plans to take an art class or go to dinner or the theater.  That is where they talk about where they will go to hang out and watch the game, or when they will go to Wal-Mart shopping, or take a trip to Branson or even a Disney cruise.  This social aspect is crucial for all of us, and consumers are no exception.  They need this peer interaction and socialization, and being part of Cottonwood Work Center is where they find that critical network.    

The notion that everyone should have a community job is just not viable on multiple levels.  It is patronizing, and assumes to “know” better than consumers what is best for them.  It also assumes that there is an available community job for every person with a disability.  Which we all know is not feasible.  There are not enough jobs in any city in our country for people, with or without disabilities, to have a zero unemployment rate.  Having every consumer have a community job would also place a huge financial burden on communities, states, and the federal government to provide job coaches and personal attendants for the many consumers who need intensive supervision and supports.  Right now in the Work Center we are able to have one or two supervisors work with an entire team of consumers.  If the Work Center were to be closed, my daughter and other consumers would no longer be productive, happy, social human beings who enjoy their jobs, feel fulfilled, and are making a contribution to the company who hired them, and paying taxes on their wages.  If the Work Center were closed, my daughter would stay home, watch too much TV, eat too much, and we would see her diabetes worsen to the point of needing insulin, and she would no doubt become depressed and need therapy and medication.  She would become very expensive for the system.  Or, in the alternative, I would need to quit my job to stay home and care for her.  That would take me out of a productive professional career and limit my ability to be an active community volunteer.    

The entire goal of the Cottonwood organization is to provide an environment where consumers can reach their fullest potential, which means giving them choices.  Right now they have choices; they are able to seek community employment, they are able to work at a Work Center, and they are able to have friends and a social life.  They are productive and proud, and the community, taxpayers, and the state are the better for it.  Please do whatever you can to support the flexible interpretation of these new “settings” rulings to allow the Work Center to continue to bid for contracts competitively through our time study piece payment schedule.  This will allow consumers the most choices, it will allow consumers (and their families) to be productive tax paying members of society, and it will save our community and our state and our country money in the process.  Thank you for your service to Kansas and to our nation.  

Parent of a Cottonwood, Inc. Consumer
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