JULY 25, 1950
HYDE PARK, Monday—All of us remember that once a year the government has a week called: "Employ the Handicapped Week" and then our minds turn to the need of providing occupation for the men and women who suffer some kind of handicap. And this need is a continuous need.
There are a hundred ways that one can become handicapped without having polio or being a spastic, sometimes it is the result of an automobile accident, sometimes a war injury, sometimes from an injury received while at work in the mines, factory or in the home. No matter what the cause, it brings the handicapped person to the office of "Just One Break."
In New York City there is a center for rehabilitating people, connected with Bellevue Hospital and New York University. A short time ago, in connection with the rehabilitation work, Dr. Howard Rusk and Mr. Bernard M. Baruch and others interested in the handicapped, started this office in order to develop employment for these people.
It meant working with employers to convince them that a handicapped person was not a liability but an opportunity; it meant working with handicapped people to prepare them for their new jobs, and to assist them in learning to adapt themselves to new and varying environments.
The young man in charge, Mr. Henry Viscardi, came to see me last week. He told me some interesting stories of the successes already achieved.
One girl, for instance, who suffered from polio as a little girl had always been kept in the background by her family—they were ashamed of her; she had never been sent to school. When her parents died she lived with a sister. As she had a good pair of arms and hands she did much of the menial work of the household. Finally she ran away and came to the rehabilitation center. They have her now in the apprentice training school of a company which needs a good strong pair of hands. They are not particularly concerned about her lack of educational background; they feel sure that she will make good and for the girl life has begun anew.
Another young girl had been trained as a dietician but through an automobile accident lost the power to speak. She is now in a temporary job, filling in during another dietician's vacation. She writes out her orders and has no need to talk to anyone, and everything is going very well.
The Bulova Watch Company, in studying machines and adjusting them to a particular handicapped person, has made employment available to many cripples. This has served as an incentive and example to other industries. Probably the most difficult thing to do is to persuade an employer to employ for the first time a handicapped person. Once that hurdle is past, the future difficulties are much easier to handle.
The news of former Prime Minister Mackenzie-King's death has just been announced. He was a valued friend of my husband's and they cooperated closely during the war. His friendship for America was strong and warm and his death is a loss to both countries.