FEBRUARY 26, 1948
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—I wonder how many of you realize that there are 25,000,000 disabled persons in the United States. One and a half million are unemployed because of their disability. They can, under certain conditions, support themselves almost completely, but the conditions have to be adjusted to their needs. They have to be trained. This takes more interest and care on the part of teachers than is usually available to handicapped adults.
One of the institutions which was started to help these people is called Goodwill Industries of New York. There are now 94 such organizations throughout the United States, and last year they paid over $6,000,000 in wages to handicapped persons who would otherwise have suffered—first because of being idle, and secondly because of being a burden on their relatives or the charities of their communities.
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The Goodwill Industries in New York City has a five-story building at 123 East 124th Street which houses offices, stores and workshops. I think anyone would be interested to see how this organization helps the disabled to help themselves. You may have one in your community or somewhere in your State.
In these institutions the handicapped get training. For instance, I was told the story of a woman 56 years old who had been a successful teacher of dramatics until a serious illness deprived her of sight. She now smiles happily as her nimble fingers assemble toys and other small articles for retail sale.
There is another case of a girl who was a prisoner in a German concentration camp for many years. She is gradually getting over skin and eye ailments which resulted from malnutrition. Mainly she has to get over her fear of people and regain some measure of self-confidence. She is an able and intelligent worker, but if a stranger speaks to her, she goes completely rigid and cannot answer. It is hoped that someday she will join again the normal workers in the outside world, but at present the protection of the Goodwill Industries is all that makes it possible for her to work and to earn.
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The effort is now being made by the New York organization to raise a fund of $150,000 to increase the scope of its work, because only one in every hundred disabled persons who apply to these organizations can be given a chance. They need equipment and materials as well as trained teachers in the various skills. The equipment and materials are often supplied wholly from cast-off clothing or furniture, which the Goodwill Industries pick up at your home if you send them word. The trained teachers and workers must be paid.
Work such as this, of course, goes on all over Europe but there are unfortunate people here at home who also need help, and in this country our hearts must be big enough both for our own and for the unfortunate victims in other lands.