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The Physically Handicapped On The Industrial Home Front

Creator: William B. Townsend (authors)
Date: June 1942
Publication: Crippled Child Magazine
Publisher: National Society for Crippled Children of the United States of America
Source: National Library of Medicine, General Collection

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SIXTEEN WORKERS are needed on the production lines to equip and supply one soldier on the battlefront, according to a recent government press release. Shortages of man power in vital industries makes it necessary for the Nation to think of the efficient mobilization of the additional workers needed in war plants. The physically disabled, constituting nearly one third of the country's unemployed,will be an important source of labor supply for the all-out war effort.


Eight out of every ten seriously handicapped men and women registered by the Placement Bureau of the Society for Crippled Children in Cleveland, Ohio, have been aided to find useful jobs in industry. These figures indicate what can be accomplished through a realistic approach to the problems of the disabled job seeker, implemented by an understanding of the community resources available to meet his needs. In the Fall of 1940, a number of representative leaders headed by Frederick T. McGuire, Jr., President of the Society, mapped out a special placement program to serve disabled men and women in Greater Cleveland. Intended primarily as a demonstration project, the Placement Bureau was established to act as a clearing house for jobs for the handicapped and to serve as a liaison agency between the disabled job seeker and the industrial employer. Because of the limited resources of the Society it was recommended that registration would be restricted to those persons with a serious physical impairment; and, by working with these individuals on an intensive basis, to prove to industry what can be accomplished through the selective hiring of disabled men and and women. The Society hoped to convince concerns in this area that the pre-employment physical exainination, which so often had disqualified even persons with relatively minor handicaps, could be used as an intelligent guide in the effective utilization of the handicapped on jobs where the disability would not interfere with 100 per cent job efficiency.


We first attempted to lessen the obstacles that confronted the handicapped job seeker. Number One problem it seemed was the frequent lack of valid work experience, which is the ususal basis for the selection of new employees. So often disabled men or women in their twenties had been unable to secure any employment during the Depression years. Then there were the older men and women, many of whom had been unemployed for eight or ten years; while others had lost jobs due to an injury or illness, which prevented them from returning to their previous work. Frequently the handicapped job seeker required a complete physical examination in order to establish a knowledge of his general health as well as the specific work limitations created by his disability. Distinction must be made in dealing with industry between the individual in good general health but with a permanent disability, and those with a chronic illness who can not be properly regarded as being ready for industrial activity.


THE SOCIETY for Crippled Children initiated a plan for administering standard aptitude tests to evaluate the potentialities of the disabled job seeker who was lacking in work experience. This testing program established under the direction of our psychologist, Arthur T. Orner, provided an effective means of securing information about the registrant. Intelligence, manual ability, hand-arm speed, muscular coordination, mechanical knowledge, finger dexterity are all basic factors in determining job possibilities. Employment managers were asked to study the relationship of these factors to exact work requirements of jobs in their plants and offices. Visits to industrial concerns enabled the Society to get a clear picture of the physical and mental requirements of a wide variety of jobs, so that this testing material could be properly correlated with the specific needs of industry. Employment managers evinced a great interest in this undertaking, and as they studied results which indicated outstanding capacities of disabled registrants they began to think more and more of how certain types of disabled workers, through selective hiring, could be placed on jobs requiring the skills brought out by our tests.


THE CASE of John Millard was a good example of this new understanding. John, a man in his thirties, had not been able to find a job in industry for eight years because no concern seemed interested in hiring a man with two artificial legs. Our tests revealed good manual ability, average intelligence, and excellent coordination. His general health was good, his appliances were in good condition, and the medical examiner approved him for any type of sedentary work. We recommended him to an employer who had an opening in the assembly department. John was immediately hired, and has proved to be an efficient workman. The concern was so well satisfied with his work that five other handicapped persons have been added to this department. To John this was more than an opportunity to show he was capable of holding a regular job earning more than $50 a week. It meant that he was once again a useful member of Society and that his wife and six children would no longer be dependent upon public charity.

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