Posted by Curt on 7 February, 2014 at 9:58 am. 3 comments already!


Nicholas Freiling:

I work for a company that sells products and services manufactured and delivered by people with disabilities. We don’t employ such people directly, but we work every day on their behalf.

As you can imagine, this is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it can seem like an impossible task. That’s because people with disabilities aren’t always capable of producing as much as non-disabled employees, and often require heavy supervision that drives up both the costs of production and the prices we market to potential customers.

I once visited a workshop that employs people with cognitive disabilities. I observed one of the employees putting small metal bolts into various boxes according to their size and shape. The boxes would then be sold to local contractors and hardware stores.

As easy as the job was, he was doing it all wrong. After just a few minutes, his supervisor was forced to empty the boxes and explain to him yet again how to do his job. He started again, but after watching him for another few minutes, I wasn’t sure he would ever get it right.

But there are success stories, too. I once met a woman who suffered from a severe learning disability. She had been unemployed for years and almost gave up hope of ever finding steady employment and supporting her children. After several months working with a local charity organization, however, she found a job on a janitorial crew. At first, she struggled. She had very little self-esteem and found it difficult to follow instructions. But her willingness to try again until she got things right impressed her supervisors and she was promoted and given full-time benefits after just two years.

I could go on. We work with thousands of people like this, and the stories are as endless and diverse as the many lessons I’ve learned from them. But let me end with one timely lesson: Peter Schiff is right.

Random, I know. Peter Schiff is a libertarian commentator and investment banker. You are probably wondering what he has to do with employing people with disabilities.

Answer: Recently, Schiff came under heavy scrutiny after insisting that employers should be allowed to pay employees with mental disabilities $2 per hour. The interview was televised as part of a Daily Show clip highlighting the minimum wage debate.

Unfortunately, Schiff’s choice of words was poor. But his idea—that persons with disabilities should be allowed to work regardless of how productive they are—was not. In fact, insisting that people with disabilities earn minimum wage like everyone else creates a huge barrier to them finding and keeping a job. Allowing them to work for less—even Schiff’s $2 per hour—is the only way to ensure that all who wish to work can find work, regardless of how productive they are.

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