Rhode Island Settles Mental Disability Segregation Claims

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The U.S. Department of Justice today announced that the state of Rhode Island has agreed to the terms of a settlement meant to tackle the issue of discrimination in the state. The U.S. had claimed that Rhode Island was violating the rights of the mentally disabled in the state.

According to the terms of the agreement, 2,000 Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities will now have the opportunity to work in normal job settings rather than in segregated workshops or day programs. In addition, 1,250 students with intellectual and developmental disabilities will receive mentoring, internships, and other services to help them transition from school to the broader Rhode Island workforce. The agreement redirects money over the next 10 years from the segregated programs to more integrated services in normal job settings.

“Today’s agreement will make Rhode Island a national leader in the movement to bring people with disabilities out of segregated work settings and into typical jobs in the community at competitive pay,” said Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. “As Rhode Island implements the agreement over the next ten years, it will make a dramatic difference in the lives of people with disabilities, businesses, and communities across the state. We congratulate Governor Chafee and state officials for signing this agreement, as we believe that Rhode Island will be a model for the nation with respect to integrated employment for people with disabilities.”

The claims against Rhode Island stem from an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) investigation into Rhode Island's day program for citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The investigation found that the state's program violated the ADA by being too segregated. Persons who were part of the program were often found to work in environments with little outside contact and were paid an average wage of only $2.21 per hour. The investigation also found that students with mental disabilities had too few choices for more integrated work opportunities.

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