Comments to the House Committee on Labor, delivered before the Subcommittee on Labor to Investigate Aid to Physically Handicapped at New York, New York (October 3, 1944)
Members of the House Committee On Labor,
Nothing could please me more than to speak here this morning as it gives me an opportunity to direct your attention once more to the consideration of a handicap allowance for the blind. Fully I endorse it as expressing the best thought of our day concerning the needs and difficulties of those who cannot see. You will, I am sure, be favorably disposed towards this constructive effort.
Dr. Robert B. Irwin, Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind, has clearly shown in his testimony before your Committee at its hearings in Washington, the Social Security Act has not provided sufficiently for the particular needs of the poorer blind, or taken into account their severe curtailments in bread-winning opportunities and personal liberty. As a result they must incur unaided peculiar expenses which lack of sight entails. For instance they must pay a guide or a reader at the sacrifice of other precious necessaries. Most of them cannot afford Braille writers or typewriters. Can you imagine yourself in the dark, unable to send a written message to a son or a brother overseas or to a friend at home?
There are two groups of the blind who should have an adequate handicap allowance and for whom I especially plead. One is the colored blind. In my travels up and down the continent I have visited their shabby school buildings and witnessed their pathetic struggle against want. I have been shocked by the meagreness (sic) of their education, lack of proper medical care and the discrimination which limits their employment chances. I feel it a disgrace that in this great wealthy land such injustice should exist to men and women of a different race -- and blind at that! It is imperative that colored people without sight be granted financial aid worthy of their human dignity and courage in the face of fearful obstacles.
The other group, the deaf-blind, is small but heartbreaking to contemplate. They are tragically isolated, and it is difficult to arouse enough interest to soften their fate. They are scattered that it is hard to find out how many of them there are. Even if the deaf-blind are taught, how seldom any one offers to entertain them or gladden them with pleasant companionship! In every State there is an agency trained and willing to help the blind in their economic problems and diversions, but not one has been organized to rehabilitate the loneliest people on earth, those without sight or hearing. They have no funds to buy little advantages or enjoyments that would bring sunshine in their double dungeon -- darkness and silence. If we are not to be haunted by remorse and shame at all our blessings while they have nothing, a definite effort must be started to raise them from the ultimate disaster to life's goodness and friendship's consolation.
What I ask of you is to use your influence to revise the Social Security Act so that it may minister generously to the hardest pressed and the least cared-for among my blind fellows. If you do, the sight and liberty you enjoy will be all the sweeter to you.