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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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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. 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 


I really believe this to be true. Everyday I know myself I go outside and just stroll around my own neighborhood in my wheelchair. As I have stated in my past blog post’s,  going outside in nature just grounds me. Things become less intense in my life.


Peace and God’s light.


Kathy 🙂


“Parks are a part of our healthcare system,” said Dr. Daphne Miller, a professor of family and community medicine, University of California, San Francisco, at the Greater & Greener: Reimagining Parks for 21st Century Cities, a conference in New York City. She said these green spaces are crucial to solving hypertension, anxiety, depression, diabetes — “the diseases of indoor living.” The more someone spends outdoors, the less likely they are to suffer from mental or physical disorders. But she said parks officials and the medical profession still needs more data to take aim at the many “naysayers on the other side” who don’t believe in what every landscape architect values.

Lucky for all of us, a few scientists are doing innovative research, trying to capture that data. In a separate panel on healthcare and parks, Dr. Deborah Cohen, senior natural scientist at RAND, and Sarah Messiah, a…

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Catholic guilt what it can do to a sister.

Barbara Billingsley

Barbara Billingsley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My two sister’s (Karen and Patty) and I grew up in the The 60’s and 70’s generation where parents if they wanted there children to do something as in daily chores would put a guilt trip on them. Not only would they put a guilt trip on them,  The guilt  would be ten time worse if the kids were brought up catholic. I bet those of you, and you know who you are  🙂 can really relate to this little well known fact.

My mom God rest her soul was the most sweetest and kindness of all motherhood put together. My mom was the kind of mother  who would bake cookies, and sew all of our clothes, and tend house all the wile maintaining  a full time job. My mom was known as the  June Cleaver of  Woodland Park .

 My mom who was brought up Methodist had  married my dad who was Catholic. My mom  had to sign a paper to the catholic church promising that the children would be brought up catholic Mom even went as far as converting to CatholicismWikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

Karen , Patty and I had certain chores to do doing the week including weekends such as: cleaning the bathrooms, taking out the trash, and running the vacuum. Now as kids will do we would at times try to prolong our task of chores for as long as we could. After my mom numerous amounts of nagging she would then come to us and say: “If you girls do not do you chores I am going to go outside and eat worms.” Mom would also use this tactic when we would not agree with her on a particular issue..

Karen  my middle sister would be totally freak out my this statement that Karen would look out the bed room window to see if our mom was actually going to go though with eating worms Worms. When we were in our teens my sister Karen decided to put my mom’s money where her month was. It all happen one night when we were talking about something or other of which us girls did not agree with. all three of us said mom that’s ridiculous what you are saying. Mom then said her  ever familiar  line: “OK I AM GOING OUTSIDE TO EAT WORMS” Well right there and then Karen proceeds to open up the back door and said  “ok mom go ahead  do it. Go out side and eat your worms”. OMG I never ever laughed  so hard in my life. I thought I would pee myself . I thought how brilliant of  Karen to challenge my mom to that kind of move.

My mom then went up stairs with her dignity in hand  to our living room and said: “ I can not believe you girls would do  that kind of thing to your mother” From that point on we never really hard that statement again. My mom instead resumed her duties  as a good mom with baking cookies sewing our clothes and seeing to it that we grew up  into good young strong women.




Hotel Pool in Tunis

Hotel Pool in Tunis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



March 16, 2012  |  AAPD Power Grid Blog Team

What I’m about to write will not be a surprise to my fellow civil rights advocates or the disability community as a whole.  But I’m writing it anyway, and I want you to pass it along to everyone you know, particularly your friends and family who are not aware of the following facts:
In 2012 when the AAPD staff wants to have a birthday party we have to search for fully-accessible restaurants, of which there are too few.  On a recent trip to New York my colleagues who use wheelchairs had to go through a loading dock to get into an office building.  When American school children and other tourists make the patriotic pilgrimage to Washington D.C. they find  many museums with separate entrances for wheelchair users and few accommodations for blind and low-vision or deaf and hard of hearing visitors. 
It’s 2012 and we’ve had enough.  We can only move forward; we will not allow progress to roll back.  The ADA is being enforced more slowly than we’d imagined 21 years ago. Until now, we had seen no progress on an important public accommodation—swimming pools.  The center of family vacations for so many people.  The way we get away from stress. At last, the Department of Justice has moved to provide access. It’s been a long time coming.
This week we learned that some members of Congress and the hotel industry wanted to stop us from getting access to pools through accessible wheelchair lifts.  They said it would cost too much. They said the lifts were an eye soar. They said that people with disabilities don’t visit their hotels. 
They are wrong.

There are over 50 million Americans with disabilities, and in spite of challenges many believe we face, we go on vacation.  Some of us might be avoiding the hotels that are not accessible now.  Maybe.  Maybe the family members who don’t use wheelchairs are approaching their inaccessible check-in desks and are speaking up. It’s hard to say. 
What I do know is that our access to pools—like many public accommodations, is long overdue. 
Some readers might be thinking “this is frivolous. They’re talking about a luxury.”  Real talk: if any other group  was being excluded from pools in 2012, there would be a public outcry.  Right here in DC, civil rights activists won a hard-fought battle to integrate a pool back in 1961.  It took decades to integrate Glen Echo park right outside of DC.  Its enormous “crystal pool,” which was built in 1931 and had human-made sand beach, was known throughout the area as a way to go on vacation without having to travel.  But only white people could  have a “beach vacation” a mile past the DC line.   It was the same all across the country. Millions of African Americans were denied the right to take their families to a day at the pool.  It’s a shameful chapter of our history.
And it’s a chapter of our history that is not yet closed.
Right now the accessibility rules are on hold pending further discussion.   The federal government has heard our views on the matter, but from what I’m hearing, the business community has not.  Please call or email the hotel or resort that you visit for business or pleasure—or one that you wish you could visit.  Let them know that we are here, we are customers or potential customers, and that it’s time for the hospitality industry to show hospitality to everyone. 

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Please Don’t Stare – Poem By Ebb

Staring at me.

Staring at me. (Photo credit: Boudewijn Berends)

Please Don’t Stare – Poem

Information provided by ebb – Published: 2011-06-10

Please Don’t Stare – A Poem regarding disability submitted by ebb.

Please Don’t Stare

Please don’t stare when you see me walking by

Prolonged looks and snidely remarks they only make me cry

I cant help being born a differently

My disfigurement is only a tiny part of me

But it can cause me sorrow and pain so many times

When people look at me like I’ve committed many crimes

Nobody is perfect and many faults cannot be seen

But mine is on show to everyone because of an undeveloped gene

Its OK to look at me and to yourself then wonder why

But please don,t stare and leer at me cos inside my heart does cry

By ebb.

Disabled World – Please Do not Stare – A Poem regarding disability submitted by ebb: