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Dignified and meaningful employment
for people with disabilities

Although new and more diverse programs are important, workshops remain a critical option for thousands of people with developmental disabilities in Missouri alone.

Workshops Were Needed in the 1960s, and They Are Still Needed Today

David Hurst remembers well the early days of workshops in Missouri.

As the manager at Project Inc. not long after it was first formed in 1966, he recalls more than anything other early leaders, parents and volunteers who helped create an option for people with developmental disabilities after they graduated from high school.

“The parents realized that after graduation, many of these young adults were not finding work,” he recalled. “There just aren’t enough community jobs, and many need care that you’re not going to have in a competitive job. In my opinion, the shops were just as viable in the early years as they are today.”

There are challenges. Moving jobs to foreign countries and increased computerization and automation are perennial challenges. Hurst noted a new issue involves those who seek to eliminate workshops. “Making demons out of the workshops is wrong,” he noted. “Most of the parents today still understand that. We all want options for our workers, but workshops have to be part of that. Otherwise, there are a lot of people with disabilities who will lose their main option for employment.”

That challenge was true in the 1950s and 60s when workshops were first considered. “We could find work for the most capable workers,” he recalled. “But we could not find work for those who were lower functioning. The opportunities of any sort were not available then.”

One thing that remains the same today is parental support. “Parents started the program, and parents along the way have helped,” Hurst recalled. “Parents had a huge need for the workshops, and they are still the backbone of our support. The reasons behind creating the workshops are still there. It’s just as strong today.”

This is one of several articles first run in our special 50th Anniversary publication.

MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions, please contact:
President Rob Libera – (636) 227-5666 or
or Legislative Chair Kit Brewer – (314) 647-3300 or