A Plea for Sheltered Workshops — Give The Disabled A Chance to Win

By Naomi Fisher

Throughout our lives we have been told, “Whether you win or lose, the most important thing is that you tried your best,” or “There can be only one winner, but it’s important you tried your best,” or how about the Special Olympics motto for handicapped, “If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Last summer I was privileged to attend the Special Olympic Games at Cal State University, Long Beach. Many had undergone multiple surgeries in their lives, or were cancer survivors, others had daunting physical difficulties. But here they were all doing their best, and proud to compete. One of the athletes had to use two canes to walk and a wheelchair when walking became exhausting. Yet he insisted on competing in the 100 meter dash without his canes. I was told he exercised daily and practiced for almost a year beforehand. He knew he could not win, he knew he would come in last. For the entire distance, he was dragging his one leg and everyone could see what that effort was costing him. Yet he kept going. And he crossed that finishline all by himself! Everyone in the stands was on their feet, yelling encouragement and clapping, and most of us had tears running down out cheeks. It did not matter that he took a long time to get there, we were seeing bravery in one of its most heroic forms.

That is the caliber of our Special Needs Individuals. Yet these brave people are the victims of cruel, narrow minded, tunnel visioned bureaucrats who have convinced themselves that all people, all handicaps are the same.

Whether it was ordained by Federal or State bureaucrats, almost all of the Sheltered Workshops across our Nation have been closed because said bureaucrats decided all workers are capable of earning $15 an hour. Sheltered Workshops are mostly non profit and cannot pay that wage. Therefore, funding was cut.

It is not our handicapped’s choice to work at a snails pace. Most have to because of their limitations. But they did work, every day, many of them for over 30 years. Now they are sitting at home or, for those who can afford it, in a day care situation watching TV or working puzzles or doing whatever they can find to pass countless, demeaning hours. They would rather be working.

Their jobs made them feel part of society and gave them self worth. They knew their siblings and neighbors earned much more than they did. But they also knew they could not function at that rate of pay or in those jobs. Here they could. And did. That money bought T-shirts, movie tickets or paid for dinners for themselves and friends. Those jobs made them feel more self sufficient, take pride in what they were doing and gave them a social setting during lunch hour.

Understanding local businesses supplied jobs knowing those jobs would be done on schedule. It was a win-win for all involved. But now only a handful of Sheltered Workshops remain. The result is devastating. Like all the rest of us these individuals have a need to be productive, a need for a place in society. For everyone, a portion of self worth is lost in unemployment.

So, please, write, email, text or telephone your State and Federal Officials. Make noise. Please demand Sheltered Workshops be reinstated.

Find your representatives:

House of Representatives

California State Senate

California State Assembly 

Prior Article on the Closing of the Workshops: HERE




Ms. Fisher often connects with disabled advocates and organizations, visits Sheltered Workshops and speaks with related State, and Federal offices. For more information or to join her in efforts on behalf of the Disabled, contact her at: [email protected]

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William "Bill" Hicks
William "Bill" Hicks
4 years ago

The fact that these people, with certain limitations, are willing to work while able bodied people would prefer to take advantage of the government hammock should be reason to keep open sheltered workshops; if only to shame those able but not willing to work.