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Dividends Of Goodwill: A Report On Self-Help For The Handicapped
The greatest growth in Goodwill Industries came after the last World War, when post-war needs demanded new enterprises to care for persons suffering from economic hardships and other handicaps. Until the depression of the Thirties, Goodwill Industries served principally people handicapped by economic conditions. With the advent of government relief, however, much greater attention was turned to physically and otherwise handicapped persons. Today anything other than employment, training, and rehabilitation for the handicapped and disabled is, in most instances, incidental to the total program.
The task of providing self-help for the handicapped in the United States is a big one. There are estimated to be more than two million handicapped who are employable or partly employable but are not working. Goodwill Industries service to 23,000 such handicapped people during a year -- plus the service rendered by other rehabilitation agencies -- only scratches the surface.
The problem of the handicapped is certain to become acute at the close of the present war. The handicapped who have been hired in industry will be the first to be released from their jobs, because they were generally the last to be hired. Industrial accidents have been increasing during the past year, adding to the number of handicapped. Disabled war veterans will swell the ranks of handicapped people who will be unable to fit into normal industrial and business employment. Persons disabled in street and home accidents and by disease continue to swell the ranks of the handicapped.
Wartime America is extremely conscious of casualties on the battlefronts. Casualties on the home front have steadily maintained a lead over battle casualties. Latest reports show that nearly 10,000 more people have been killed in industrial accidents than in battle, and the number temporarily or permanently disabled in industry is 60 times the number of war wounded and missing. As of the beginning of 1944, nearly 100,000 people have been made permanently disabled since the start of the war.
This increase in the number of handicapped -- added to the number of handicapped by illness and other circumstances -- will create a pressing need for increased service after the war. The Federal Government already has recognized the need by enacting two rehabilitation laws -- one providing rehabilitation benefits and training for disabled servicemen and another for disabled and handicapped civilians.
Pensions and training, however, will not fill the needs. Jobs, too, will have to be provided for the disabled. In wartime, it is comparatively easy for industry to hire handicapped people, but such employment cannot be considered permanent despite planning in industry to open more jobs to those with disabilities. Many of the people now being disabled will not be able to work full time at normal occupations.
The prospect of a much greater demand for Sheltered Workshop employment faces organizations like Goodwill Industries. In their plants, where the disabled need only utilize the skills they have and do not compete with physically normal persons, the new thousands of handicapped will be able to find the kind of employment that suits their abilities.
Much consideration is being given by Goodwill Industries -- at both national and local levels -- to the place of Goodwill in the post-war era. Typical of the consideration was the attention paid to the situation by Goodwill executives in a national Goodwill Institute held in Detroit in the summer of 1943. Nearly all planning for the future is based on the prospect of greater demand on rehabilitation training and employment facilities.
Local Goodwill Industries have accepted responsibility for broadening the program of self-help for the handicapped. They now are building organizations which will be able to expand services. Through the national organizations, they work together for total growth. Larger Industries, for instance, have established branches, and some of these branches already have become autonomous and others are ready to become so.
Projects other than the repair and reconditioning of discarded articles have been added to test new ways of providing work opportunities for the handicapped. Experience has shown that some of the severely handicapped people cannot work at the usual jobs of repairing discarded articles.
If existing jobs are too difficult, the handicapped, of course, must work very slowly. Although Goodwill Industries do not make profits and some of them must be subsidized to make up deficits, the earned income must provide for most of the wages and other expenses. If too many handicapped people are employed at work they do with difficulty, deficits increase, and the whole program of service is jeopardized. New projects are therefore being developed where even the most seriously handicapped persons may be employed and paid in accordance with their ability and production.
Sorting and assembly projects have provided types of work which people with severe handicaps can do. Workers can be paid by the quantity of production on such projects. These kinds of work opportunities have been quite successful.