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Workforce Investment Opportunity Act



 “We congratulate Congress as they have taken an important step forward by updating a critical law that directly impacts the employment of young adults and adults with disabilities. We urge them to continue to take steps to ensure meaningful employment in the community and fair pay for fair labor." 

-Denise Marshall, COPAA Executive Director


Man with Down Syndrome at computer working



The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (Pub.L 113-128) was signed into law on July 22, 2014, and went into effect on July 1, 2015. The law is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. While the law is currently in effect and states are finalizing their state plans, the U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL) and Education (ED) are set to release joint, final rules this year. COPAA believes in the promise of WIOA as it is designed to:


  • promote and increase access to competitive, integrated employment;
  • strengthen transition planning for youth with disabilities under IDEA and other laws protecting and supporting school-age students; and,
  • create checkpoints and intentional planning and training for people with significant disabilities to reduce referrals to sheltered work and jobs paying a subminimum wage.

Competitive Integrated Employment

WIOA is designed to improve the employment participation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (known as people with significant disabilities in the law) by ensuring opportunities for competitive integrated employment (CIE). CIE refers to jobs held by people with disabilities in workplace settings where the majority of persons employed are not persons with disabilities. With CIE, individuals with disabilities earn wages consistent with those paid to workers without disabilities in the community performing the same or similar work, earn at least minimum wage and are paid directly by the employer. The DOL has created a committee to address issues related to CIE, and the Committee released a set of Interim Report of Preliminary Recommendations  in September 2015. The committee hopes to issue final recommendations by September 15, 2016.

Transition Age Youth

WIOA supports transition-age youth eligible under IDEA by:

  • Placing significant emphasis on serving students and youth with disabilities by increasing opportunities to practice and improve workplace skills, including internships and apprenticeships;
  • Promoting participation in postsecondary education to obtain and advance in high demand jobs and careers, including science, technology, engineering and math; and
  • Requiring Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies to reserve 15 percent of Federal VR funds to provide pre-employment transition services to assist students with disabilities transitioning from high school to postsecondary education programs and/or employment in CIE settings, and to coordinate with services under IDEA.


Vocational Rehabilitation Act

WIOA also amends Section 511 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, placing limitations on the payment of subminimum wages by entities holding special wage certificates under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It also requires individuals with disabilities seeking or continuing employment with (14(c) entities to access the services that will enable them to achieve CIE in the community, including VR services. Entities holding 14(c) certificates may not continue to employ an individual at subminimum wage, regardless of age, unless:

  • The individual is provided career counseling, information and referrals by the VR agency; and is informed by the employer of self-advocacy, self-determination, and peer mentoring training opportunities provided by an entity that does not have a financial interest in the individual’s employment outcome.

Technical assistance to states, programs and providers authorized to deliver training and support for youth and adults with disabilities eligible under WIOA comes through ED’s Rehabilitation Services Administration.  Additional information and resources are available on the following links:

 Additional Information on Transition


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