Image: blind man and dog, 17th century woodcut.
No one gets a free pass to success in the Unites States, though we believe everyone is born equal. This is a conundrum for the blind who are unemployed at a rate estimated to be between 60 to 80 per cent.
Equality, if you have a disability, means better social contracts between the governed and the government. Good governance is the key.
Here at Planet of the Blind we (my dog and I) applaud Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) for co-sponsoring the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act (S. 2001. As the National Federation of the Blind notes on their website:
“The National Federation of the Blind applauds Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) for cosponsoring the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act (S. 2001). Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced this legislation to repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, in order to incentivize the transitioning of workers with disabilities into integrated, meaningful employment, and to phase out the discriminatory practice of paying workers with disabilities as little as pennies per hour. Senator Bennett is the first cosponsor of Senator Ayotte’s legislation. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Gregg Harper (R-MS) as H.R. 188 and has forty-four cosponsors.”
Twenty years ago while I was working for a major guide dog school I visited a “sheltered workshop” for the blind in a major American city.
I was shocked by the tin roof warehouse without windows where blind people hunched over sewing machines stitching flag decals for army uniforms. The working conditions were positively Dickensian. The manager of the operation was pleased as punch. The blind had jobs. The blind were laboring in the dark. The blind were making pennies on the dollar.
I asked Mr. Gradgrind (for so I thought of him) “Where do your workers live?” knowing full well they couldn’t afford apartments on their wages.
“Oh,” he said, “you know, all over.”
Let us hope these conditions are now all over.