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Higher pay for disabled employees could put them out of work



Diana Simmons (right) of Marion and Patti Loth of Cedar Rapids work on a repackaging project for a tool company at Options of Linn County on Williams Blvd. in southwest Cedar Rapids on Thursday, April 1, 2010. Employers worry that if Senator Tom Harkin changes the legislation on subminimum wage, many disabled workers will be out of employment. (Julie Koehn/The Gazette)

Faith Millburn earns about $1.25 an hour working for Goodwill. She knows that’s less than minimum wage, and she thinks it’s fair.

The 21-year-old with cerebral palsy, who on Thursday was typing labels at Goodwill of the Heartland in Iowa City, is at the center of a complex debate over what to pay people with disabilities for their work.

Part of the fallout from the mistreatment of workers in Atalissa is renewed scrutiny of a federal law that allows employers to pay disabled workers less than federal minimum wage. Even a distant threat to that legislation is troubling to organizations like Goodwill, who say they can’t afford to employ as many workers at higher wages, and to Millburn, who thinks she would have trouble finding a job working for minimum wage.

“I think it’s funny that they want to change it,” she said. “The way it is now is fair.”

Because of the Atalissa case, where mentally disabled workers were paid only $65 a month to work at West Liberty Foods and an Atalissa farm, Sen. Tom Harkin wants to review the law.

Here’s how the law works now: Instead of paying disabled employees minimum wage, organizations like Goodwill and Options of Linn County can get a certificate to allow them to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage. The organization measures how much work the average able-bodied worker can complete in an hour and then times its disabled employee and pays him or her according to productivity. Sometimes employees are paid according to the number of tasks performed, instead of hourly.

“All of that is documented,” said Dana Engelbert, spokeswoman for Goodwill of the Heartland in Iowa City.

In Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, hundreds of disabled people hold jobs like this with Goodwill, Options, Systems Unlimited and REM Developmental Services. Some 81 employers in Iowa are authorized to pay less than minimum wage.

“Phasing it out means that, for our agency alone, right around 500 clients would be without a job,” Engelbert said.

Options of Linn County employs 125 people at its southwest Cedar Rapids facility. Disabled workers sort paperwork, coil rope into buckets and screw bolts into nuts. Options gets contracts from private companies, and the work changes as contracts are completed and new ones come in.

Jim Nagel, director of Options of Linn County, said most of the workers simply wouldn’t be hired in the private sector.

“They would either have to go to some kind of day programming, or they’d have to stay home,” he said.

The Iowa Association for Persons in Supported Employment wants to work toward eliminating subminimum wage, president Lonnie Matthews said.

“The ideal system would be that there’s enough money in the system that everyone could make minimum wage or above,” Matthews said. “It has to be done very, very carefully.”

Harkin understands that groups like Goodwill are able to employ people with disabilities because of the subminimum wage legislation and acknowledges the importance of that ability, spokeswoman Bergen Kenny said. Still, he would like to give people with disabilities more choices.

“He remains concerned that some individuals employed in (such) programs are being paid far below the value of their work, as was so clearly demonstrated in Atalissa, and is looking at ways to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place,” Kenny said

 

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Practicing Yoga from the Inside Out


I have posted about yoga for people with disabilities before. We need to have a program like this in every hospital around this country.

Winter's Invitation

Image

What if you were more than your physical body- your muscles, your senses,  your bones?

And, what if you were more than your actions, your accomplishments, your achievements?

How about your feelings, your connections to other people, your relationships? What if you were more than those?

Lastly, imagine that you were more than your thoughts, your perceptions, your judgments?

What if all of it went away? Who, or what, would you be then?

These are questions I pose to my yoga students all the time. And they think they get it- yes, I am More than all of this.  I thought I did too, I knew the right answer- if you take it all away, what I am is pure consciousness, pure awareness. 

I knew the right answer, in my brain. And having a sense of knowing something can be helpful because it points you in the right direction. But,

View original post 684 more words


Leave a comment

Practicing Yoga from the Inside Out


I have posted about yoga for people with disabilities before. We need to have a program like this in every hospital around this country.

Winter's Invitation

Image

What if you were more than your physical body- your muscles, your senses,  your bones?

And, what if you were more than your actions, your accomplishments, your achievements?

How about your feelings, your connections to other people, your relationships? What if you were more than those?

Lastly, imagine that you were more than your thoughts, your perceptions, your judgments?

What if all of it went away? Who, or what, would you be then?

These are questions I pose to my yoga students all the time. And they think they get it- yes, I am More than all of this.  I thought I did too, I knew the right answer- if you take it all away, what I am is pure consciousness, pure awareness. 

I knew the right answer, in my brain. And having a sense of knowing something can be helpful because it points you in the right direction. But,

View original post 684 more words


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The National Braille Challenge


English: The Perkins Next Generation Brailler

This Saturday in Los Angeles, top blind students from the U.S. and Canada will meet to compete in the 12th Annual National Braille Challenge.   These students, ages 6 to 19, must  transcribe, type, and read braille at an amazingly fast speed, using a Perkins Brailler.
Sacbee.com reports:
 
 
The National Braille Challenge
“This competition is unique in that it tests a very specific skill. It gives us the opportunity to bring the issue of literacy for blind children to the attention of the public,” said Nancy Niebrugge, director of The Braille Challenge. “Most of the participants who make it to the national competition are the only blind students in their school. They go through their entire lives being the exception. The Braille Challenge® gives them the opportunity to build camaraderie among kids who have shared similar life experiences.”
This year’s competition will feature a diverse group of high achievers from across the country. Most were born blind, others lost their sight due to cancer or viral infections, but they all share a tenacity that drives them to succeed in spite of their challenges. They were chosen from among more than 900 blind students—representing 42 states and two Canadian provinces—during the preliminary round at Regional Braille Challenge events held across 


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Disability Etiquette.


A person in a wheelchair icon

A person in a wheelchair icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Disability Etiquette

 

People with disabilities are entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to anyone, including personal privacy. If you find it inappropriate to ask people about their sex lives, or their complexions, or their incomes, extend the courtesy to people with disabilities.

 

  • If you don’t make a habit of leaning or hanging on people, don’t lean or hang on someone’s wheelchair. Wheelchairs are an extension of personal space. 
  • When you offer to assist someone with a vision impairment, allow the person to take your arm. This will help you to guide, rather than propel or lead, the person. 
  • Treat adults as adults. Call a person by his or her first name only when you extend this familiarity to everyone present. Don’t patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head. Reserve this sign of affection for children.

 

In conversation…

 

  • When talking with someone who has a disability, speak directly to him or her, rather than through a companion who may be along. 
  • Relax. Don’t be embarrassed if you happen to use common expressions, such as “See you later” or “I’ve got to run”, that seem to relate to the person’s disability. 
  • To get the attention of a person who has a hearing disability, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly and expressively to establish if the person can read your lips. Not everyone with hearing impairments can lip-read. Those who do will rely on facial expressions and other body language to help understand. Show consideration by facing a light source and keeping your hands and food away from your mouth when speaking. Keep mustaches well-trimmed. Shouting won’t help, but written notes will. 
  • When talking with a person in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, place yourself at the wheelchair user‘s eye level to spare both of you a stiff neck. 
  • When greeting a person with a severe loss of vision, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. Say, for example, “On my right is Andy Clark“. When conversing in a group, remember to say the name of the person to whom you are speaking to give vocal cue. Speak in a normal tone of voice, indicate when you move from one place to another, and let it be known when the conversation is at an end. 
  • Give whole, unhurried attention when you’re talking to a person who has difficulty speaking. Keep your manner encouraging rather than correcting, and be patient rather than speak for the person. When necessary, ask questions that require short answers or a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Repeat what you understand. The person’s reaction will guide you to understanding.

 

Common courtesies…

 

  • If you would like to help someone with a disability, ask if he or she needs it before you act, and listen to any instructions the person may want to give. 
  • When giving directions to a person in a wheelchair, consider distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles such as stairs, curbs and steep hills. 
  • When directing a person with a visual impairment, use specifics such as “left a hundred feet” or “right two yards”. 
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take a person with a disability to get things done or said. Let the person set the pace in walking and talking. 
  • When planning events involving persons with disabilities, consider their needs ahead of time. If an insurmountable barrier exists, let them know about it prior to the event.

 


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States Get Ranked On Disability Services


This is the internationally recognized symbol ...

This is the internationally recognized symbol for accessibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

States Get Ranked On Disability Services

By May 2, 2013Text Size  A  A

Arizona is the place to be when it comes to services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to a new national ranking.

The listing is part of a report set to be released Thursday by United Cerebral Palsy, which ranks disability services in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Specifically, the advocacy organization weighed each state’s track record in promoting independence and productivity, ensuring quality and safety, keeping families together and reaching people in need.

In addition to Arizona, the highest ranked states were New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and California.

Top performing states were largely clustered in the Northeast and on the West Coast. As in past years, the standouts represented both big and small states as well as those with high and low tax burdens. What’s more, the amount they spent to provide community supports for individuals with disabilities varied.

Mississippi was ranked last for the seventh straight year. Arkansas, Texas, Illinois and Virginia filled out the bottom five.

The report — which is produced annually — is largely based on data from 2011, the most recent available.

States are increasingly shifting to a focus on supports within the community, the analysis found. Currently, 38 states indicate that at least 80 percent of residents with developmental disabilities that they serve live in the community. These same states also devote at least 80 percent of their resources designated for this population toward community supports. That’s up from 14 states in 2007.

While some states outshined others the report authors caution that there’s work to do nationwide. Fewer than a third of those with developmental disabilities are employed competitively in the vast majority of states. And, waiting lists for residential services remain high, with 268,000 people in limbo compared to 138,000 in 2007, the report indicates.