Have You Ever Been Paid a Penny? Part Two

So how can we help fix this problem of people paying disabled people under minimal wage? Sign the petition on the NFB website, and spread this issue with everyone you know. You can also stop shopping at the stores and organizations that pay their disabled workers under minimal wage. There is also a list of these places on the NFB website under the fair wages section.
The semester has come to the end. I hope I have made the public more knowledgeable about the blind community. Even if I only reached one person I am happy. I hope to continue this blog, but I may not be posting as frequently. Thank you to my family, friends, and classmates for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. If you could share what was your favorite post and why I would I appreciate having all of you in my life. We will continue to make a difference in this world one day at a time.

Have You Ever Been Paid a Penny?

Here is a smart, young group of blind children I worked with this summer. I hope they never have to work a job where they are paid under minimal wage.

Here is a smart, young group of blind children I worked with this summer. I hope they never have to work a job where they are paid under minimal wage.

$2.75 an hour, $1.58 an hour, $0.77 an hour, $0.22 an hour, $0.03 an hour, and sadly $0.01 an hour; can you imagine being paid this low? Today’s lowest minimal wage today is $7.25, but people are still being paid the wages above. One penny an hour, that sounds like a slap in the face to me. Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) allows entities holding what are called “special wage certificates” to pay their disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage. These entities are almost always segregated workplaces, sometimes called “sheltered workshops,” that employ workers with various disabilities, including sensory, physical, and cognitive or developmental disabilities. Federal law requires that certain goods and services procured by the federal government be purchased from these sheltered workshops in order to provide workers with disabilities with employment, but these workers do not have the same protections that other American workers have. Most importantly, over 300,000 workers with disabilities do not receive the federal minimum wage. This is dehumanizing. I strongly believe that the disabled deserve to be paid at least the minimal wage. They are capable of doing pretty much anything abled people can do, so why don’t they deserve to be paid just as much as us? In my blog alone, I have shared a small amount of stories that show that the blind are capable of doing anything we can. There are millions of more stories out in this world. The N.F.B. (National Federation of the Blind) is on the run with others to fix this problem. The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 (H.R. 831) has been introduced by Congressman Gregg Harper. The bill, if passed, would repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and phase out the discriminatory practice of paying disabled workers less than the federal minimum wage. Why should this matter to you? Well when you have a little child born disabled, you will still have the dreams of them becoming successful. Not only will you have these dreams for your own child, but anyone in your family. I hope my cousin Brayden never has to be paid these outrageously low wages. No one deserves to be paid that. I was never aware of this problem until I went to the national NFB convention this summer in Orlando, FL. I heard a life changing speech that I hope you will take the time to listen to. It is called Valuing the Talent of Disabled American Workers: Ending Subminimum Wage Payments. If you would like to know what you can do to help this issue, please come back tomorrow.

Mashed Potatoes Anyone? Part Two

On Tuesday I told you the story of my cousin mashing the potatoes, and the uneasiness my relatives had. What I hope you get from that is, even though you may have fear, make sure you are helping your kids learn how to cook. Not only cook but any other skills that can help them become independent. For parents with blind children; if other children in that age group are doing it, so should your child. I know it is easier said than done, but it is vital for your child to have the best chance at independence. Even like letting your child walk to and from their bus stop. That may seem a little scary for you, but they can do it. Here is a link to a video of a boy who is four years old. He steps off a curb for the first time using his cane all by himself. Visually impaired people have canes for a reason; to help them travel. If we are always there to guide them, the children will never learn how to travel by themselves. These are crucial everyday duties that can make or break your child’s independence.

Mashed Potatoes Anyone? Part one

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I got to sped mine with my family: my great grandparents, my grandmother, my uncle, my aunt, and my little cousins. My cousins are Abby, who is seven, and Brayden, who is nine. Children mean the world to me and a various amount of others. They are so valuable to us, that we become over-protected frequently. But, if we want our children to become successful independent adults, we must let them try new things to help us. I watched a moment like this during Thanksgiving.
Smell of the turkey baking was in the air, with a room full of laughter. My family had spent all day cooking a spectacular dinner for us all. One important part of the meal was the mashed potatoes. As we were peeling them, my cousin Brayden, asked if he could mash the potatoes when they were ready. When it came time for that task my aunt called Brayden over to the stove with the big silver pot on top of it. My grandmother and great grandmother began to worry. They didn’t want him to burn himself or get hurt. You can see how this could be a concern for any young child wanting to help while cooking, but at one point they need to learn how to do it. I have spent lots of time with Brayden, so I know he was more than capable. Just as some people have worried about him using a knife to cut his meat. He isn’t immobile, he is just like us. The only difference is he cannot see. We should treat him wanting to help mash the potatoes, like we would with a child with a broken arm. We just have to have different approaches. Brayden understood that the pot was hot; he made sure he didn’t touch it. As I stood and watched from the counter, I saw a mother smiling at her child as he stood on a chair and mashed the potatoes.

This is a picture of my aunt Shannon on the left smiling at her son Brayden. My grandmother Maria is on the right,

This is a picture of my aunt Shannon on the left smiling at her son Brayden. My grandmother Maria is on the right,

Moments like these teach children skills they will need in the future, along with an everlasting memory with their loved ones. Come back on Thursday to learn about why this story is worthy.

Do You Appreciate Your Words? Part Two

The negotiation of the treaty gathering had more than 600 negotiators from WIPO’s (World Intellectual Property Organization) 186 members were present. It was held in the states Kingdom of Morocco. This gathering was to address the “book famine” by requiring its contracting parties to adopt national law provisions that permit the reproduction, distribution and making available of published works in accessible formats through limitations and exceptions to the rights of copyright right holders. That meaning if the United States braille Harry Potter, other countries won’t have to re-braille the same book. We can share the work done in different countries. This also makes it possible for us to braille printed books legally, and making them fit formats accessible to the visually impaired. The treaty was signed by national delegations on Friday June 28th, 2013. It will enter into force after it has been ratified by 20 WIPO members that agree to be bound by its provisions.You can see how this was a historical day. This treaty is the marking of creating equal opportunities for everyone not just “normal” people. Now they may have fewer struggles with finding books for school and for other parts of their lives.

Do You Appreciate Your Words?

Words. Words are constantly surrounding us, without being acknowledged. On the walls, magazines, street signs, directions, and much more. What if we didn’t have words surrounding us, or we couldn’t see them? Then it may become hard to learn. Blind, visually impaired, and print disabled people have accessibility to only five percent of published books in developed countries, and less than one percent in developing countries of published books. By accessibility I mean in braille, in audio, and/or in large print text formats.
Accessibility is at such low percent to the visually impaired because of the past copyright law. The copyright law was a national jurisdiction which had the effect of preventing blind organizations from sharing books with neighbouring countries, thus causing considerable unnecessary duplication of production of books in accessible formats.
After years of inaccessibility to these individuals, there has been a fix set in place to help this problem. On June 27th, 2013 the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled was concluded, ironically on Helen Keller’s birthday. For those of you who may be unaware of who Helen Keller was, she was a deaf and blind student who made a big difference in this world. This treaty will also make a big difference in this world. For more information about the treaty, and what it will strive to do, please join me again tomorrow.

A Simple Walk

Brayden and Abby walking the dogs.

Brayden and Abby walking the dogs.

I often forget how a simple task to us, may be super exciting to someone else. My cousins love going on bike rides, but I was a little too tired that day to be chasing them to try to keep up. I convinced them to go on a walk instead. Brayden’s sister Abby loves her dogs, so she argued that we couldn’t go without both of the dogs. I presented the idea that each of them could walk one of the dogs. Abby was a little skeptical since Brayden had never walked one of the dogs before, and she wanted to be insured that he would not let the dog run off. Brayden also doesn’t like using his cane, so this was a fix to where he wouldn’t have to take his cane. This was a win-win for us all. Brayden usually hates walks, but this one he had a huge smile on. This was the first time he got to walk the dog by himself. This made him feel a part of the family, and not so different. His excitement reminded me that everyday activities are important for children to complete, not only for blind children, but for all children. I notice myself doing tasks for them when I babysit, when they honestly could be doing it on their own. This is a reminder to us all to let your child try some new things on their own more frequently.

“I may have lost my eyesight, but I have not lost my vision.” ~Dan Parker

href=”http://blogs.fortlewis.edu/irhitz/files/2013/11/993405_431570470281925_2147306592_n.jpg”>This is Dan Parker at  Bonneville Salt Flats. Photo courtesy Scooter Grubb. This is Dan Parker at Bonneville Salt Flats. Photo courtesy Scooter Grubb.[/caption]

We all have dreams, but our fears often stop us. Well that was not the case for Dan Parker. Dan Parker had his sight until March of 2012. He lost his vision due to a bad drag strip accident on March 31, 2012. This changed his life forever. He was a fabricator and past racer. He is not letting his loss of sight stop him, rather using it as motivation. He is doing what many people believed to be impossible. On August 26th, 2013 he ran 55.33 through mile 2-3 officially becoming the first blind man to independently navigate a motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats. His bike has a GPS system that tells him verbally about his surroundings. This helps him keep straight. The engine also shuts off once he passes the finish line for safety reasons. For more information on him and his bike you can like his Facebook page. There are multiple videos on this page including his first run. This shows us that we can never let what others say stop us from following our dreams. I’m sure many people told him he could never do it, but he proved them all wrong.

Can Anyone Drive?

When I was little I couldn’t wait to turn 16! It is one of the biggest celebrations for this day and age. So much, that there was even a television show on MTV called Sweet Sixteen where people were spending thousands of dollars on their children for a one night party. We all hope and dream about the day we can get our driver’s license. This is a sense of independence from our parents, while also allowing us more freedom.

It broke my heart when Brayden broke into tears when he realized he wouldn’t be able to drive. How can you crush a young child’s dream like that? He is only nine, but hopefully by the time he is 16 there may be more options. The technology we have today is revolving so fast, and changing the world in ways we never thought possible. The NFB (National Federation of the Blind) had its grand opening of the Driver’s Challenge in January of 2004. The challenge essentially takes steps to help blind people become even more independent than they already are. You are probably thinking how in the world can a blind person drive? Well the research and technology they are developing is truly amazing. They are not simply making a car that drives its self. That is not trustworthy enough, but developing cars that will respond to the blind person the surroundings. Helping them make decisions, and being able to physically drive. I know this may seem a little skeptical, but keep in mind they have been working on this project for nine years already. They still plan on many more years before putting this car on the streets. They want to be sure everyone will be safe. For more information on the Driver’s Challenge you can look at their website. Also look at this webpage for the video of the first blind person to ever drive. Then there is another video that talks more about the car, and how it works.

So what are your thoughts? Does this idea make you scared or do you feel safe? I feel that with the amount of time and research that it will be fine. Every time we get in our car we are at risk by the huge amount of reckless drivers today. Whether texting and driving, or getting high/drunk and driving. Not saying a blind person driving is compared to these acts, but it’s something to think about. We give everyone the benefit of the doubt, so who are we to stop these hard working blind people making a difference in this world.

Be looking out for my next post in the next couple of days about Dan Parker who officially became the first blind man to independently navigate a motorcycle at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Anything is Possible

Can a blind person ride a bicycle? Sure. Why not? There is a blind man in California that rides his bike using echolocation. You can read more about it on this link. This reminds me of the time when I heard my cousin, Brayden, was learning to ride his bike. I never thought it would happen, and if it did I believed he would always have training wheels. That was not the case. Watching him for the first time was so precious. I remember every detail. It was a little scary due to his unsteadiness and lack of balance. He swerved and swayed coming close to smacking into the wall. None of that mattered to him though. You could see it in his face how free he felt. He could be “normal” like all the other children and ride a bike. Once he had it mastered I began to receive phone calls daily asking if I would like to take him and his sister on a bike ride. Any chance he had, he was on that bike. This has instilled a sense of independence for him and fearlessness in him. I couldn’t ask for anything better. This summer we went to the middle school in Craig Colorado so they could ride around the track. There were other children there, so they started racing laps around the track. His face was priceless with a huge smile as he was fitting in with everyone else. It was as if the other children forgot he was blind. We need to realize that just because something may be challenging, it doesn’t mean it is impossible. People often think blind people are so limited, but their opportunities are endless. They are even designing cars for the blind as we speak! Come back next week to hear about that.

Here is a picture of my cousin after they got done racing. He is full of happiness and would ride for hours straight if we let him.