A Brief History of Rehabilitation for Wisconsin and Community Rehabilitation Programs
Rehabilitation for Wisconsin (RFW) 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Today, the term “sheltered workshop” is considered outdated in the U.S. and other countries (although the original values are still in place), and the common term is community rehabilitation program (CRP) or work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.
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