A Photographer's Insights on Vision Loss

"We’ll find out..."

It was a phrase said to me repeatedly by two of my greatest mentors, Fred Sanders and Jim Platt. Almost fifty years later, that phrase seems to pop out of my own mouth with increasing regularity.

My Job at a Children’s Museum

If we were to ask a random sample of our sighted friends if a blind person could work at a children’s museum, the majority of those individuals might say no.

Well, my friends, I am here to erase that misconception. My name is Jonathan Franks and I work at an interactive children’s museum called the Thinkery in Austin, Texas that is focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

Finding a Career in Music Therapy

Music therapy, like blindness, is very misunderstood. As a blind student in a field in which disabled people are just starting to become the helpers rather than solely the recipients of help, I've needed to find my own solutions to many complicated problems.

Be the STAR of Your Story: Using Your Past Experiences to Excel in Interviews

With the unemployment rate for the blind hovering around 70 percent, the National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee is dedicated to providing resources and information to help the blind become gainfully employed.

Shutdown Slams Blind Merchants

Since its inception in 1936, the federal Randolph-Sheppard program has become the most effective government employment program for the blind. Today some one thousand blind entrepreneurs operate businesses on federal property throughout the United States, ranging from full-service restaurants and cafeterias to vending machine stocking and maintenance operations. All of these businessmen and women are now adversely affected by the shutdown of the federal government, which has been in place for over a week now. 

National Federation of the Blind Position Statement on Section 511 of Title V of the Workforce Investment Act

This paper sets forth the position of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) with respect to the proposed addition to Title V of the Rehabilitation Act, known hereinafter as Section 511, contained in the draft reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act recently reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Although we recognize the intent behind the proposed Section 511, which is to reduce the number of youth with disabilities being tracked directly from school into subminimum wage employment in segregated work environments, we cannot in good conscience support Section 511. First and foremost, we believe that the problem of subminimum wage employment must be addressed at its root by working to repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which authorized this unconscionable practice in 1938.

No Help from the Senate HELP Committee: Increasing the Wage Disparity for Workers with Disabilities

Yesterday was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is a monumental piece of legislation for most American workers.  The FLSA provides for the payment of a federal minimum wage, which is now $7.25 per hour, to every American citizen.  To commemorate this seventy-fifth anniversary, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) conducted a hearing entitled "Building a Foundation of Fairness: 75 Years of the Federal Minimum Wage,” to discuss a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage. 

Victims of the Exemption

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act exempts over three thousand employers from paying their workers with disabilities the federal minimum wage, allowing them to pay workers subminimum wages as low as three cents per hour.  The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 will repeal this unfair, discriminatory, and immoral provision.  The employers paying a subminimum wage argue that, once the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities legislation passes, the increase in wages would create a financial hardship that would force them to terminate employees or go out of business.  This argument is an attempt to frame the employers as victims, but instead highlights the perverse nature of the existing subminimum wage provision authorized by Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Commensurate Wage Fallacy

Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, a flawed formula has been used for years to calculate the commensurate “piece rate” wage for workers with disabilities.  This formula, based on average wages and survey data, works mathematically, but fails the common sense test.  My twelve-year-old stepson asked me the following question from his math homework: If Johnny can run one mile in two minutes, how fast can Johnny run two miles?  He knew that the expected answer was four minutes.  However, he also had the common sense to know that Johnny would get tired, and it would take Johnny more time to run each consecutive mile.  I told him to put four minutes as the answer.  He got an “A” on the homework, but he did not understand why he got an “A” for the wrong answer.

What Remains Unsaid About the Minimum Wage

Last night during his State of the Union address, President Obama described the need for better education and training in order to build a more qualified workforce.  He went further to describe how the current minimum wage leaves many hourly workers, particularly those with families, earning wages below the poverty line.  He argued for more investment in the training and education of the workforce, and for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour.  The same moral and economic arguments being used to justify a lifting of the minimum wage apply to workers with disabilities, about 300,000 of whom are currently being paid wages significantly below the federal minimum wage and the poverty line.

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