History of the Organization

 

More than 50 years ago

few, if any, programs existed in state or federal government to provide employment and community services for people with disabilities until families, guardians, and community business owners worked together and filled the void. Before then, most people with disabilities were placed in institutions at considerably higher safety consequences, isolation, and taxpayer expense.

The success of these families and guardians to create meaningful employment and social interaction outside an institution was a catalyst to formalize and duplicate services for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens throughout the state. These organizations became known as community rehabilitation programs (CRPs), and they have purposely made giant leaps in step with modern times. No longer are these organizations known as “sheltered workshops,” and critics have been known to call these organizations "sweatshops."

Today, the provider network includes 66 CRPs with certified work centers and an even greater number of residential service providers and together, they subsidize a variety of services for people with cognitive and physical disabilities, and economic disadvantages despite a lack of government assistance.

 

Rehabilitation for Wisconsin

was founded in 1965 and was first known as the Wisconsin Association of Sheltered Workshops and Homebound Programs. At that time, the organization was voluntary in nature and helped fulfill a need for families, guardians, and community representatives to work together to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Few, if any, programs existed in state or federal government to provide these opportunities.

When the organization was founded, the term “sheltered workshop” had a positive connotation. It was understood as a safe, protective environment where people with disabilities could receive paid, meaningful work in a supportive environment. Today, the term “sheltered workshop” is considered outdated in the U.S. and other countries (although the original values are still in place), and the common term is community rehabilitation program (CRP) or work center.

CRPs have evolved considerably through the years to become commercial and social enterprises that are successful catalysts for economic development in Wisconsin. These programs continue to provide meaningful jobs for people with disabilities, and offer expanded services that include early intervention through birth-to-three programs; medical rehabilitation services; supported employment; and open employment (also known as job placement in private business / integrated employment); residential and/or supported living services.

 

A modern provider network

is critical to the de-institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities and supports for people to live in their own communities and their own homes. Perhaps most importantly, the provider network allows family members and guardians respite and retention of their financial success and career development so they do not have to give up their lives to become single caregivers, and have timeand energy to enjoy and support their family.

The importance of this network should not be underestimated as CRPs have evolved considerably through the years to become commercial and social enterprises that are successful catalysts for economic development in Wisconsin. These programs continue to provide meaningful jobs for people with disabilities, and offer expanded services that include social interaction; early intervention through birth-to-three programs; medical rehabilitation services; supported employment; and open employment in private business (also known as job placement in competitive integrated employment); residential and/or supported living services.