Op Ed with Bob Branco – Another Perspective on the Unemployment Rate of the Blind

I have talked about some of the reasons why there is such a high unemployment rate among the blind community.  I failed to mention another factor which I feel is a major contributor–there are many blind people who are reluctant to get a job for fear that their disability check will be reduced.  I can understand this fear, because one never knows how long a job is going to last, and how long it would take that particular blind person to recover their lost benefits if they lose their job.

This is not a subject that I like to talk about, because it borders on intimidation by the system.  Even though the blind are allowed to make more money than persons with other disabilities before their government checks are reduced, there is still a point where the blind person needs to worry about it.  I receive a government check, though it is based on my work history and not about S.S.I., so as I become self-employed I try to weigh all my options.  If I knew that I could make a consistent amount of money each month, I could accept a reduction or a dismissal of my benefits, but I would have to make absolutely sure of the consistent flow of income first. After all, I, like anyone else, have to put food on the table, pay the rent, pay utilities, and do everything else possible to lead a normal life.  If I knew I could make an adequate amount of money, I wouldn’t mind not receiving government benefits.  Yet I understand why government benefits exist and what purpose they serve. 

I have thought of ways that would give blind people more incentive to find work while on government assistance, and also for blind workers to have a smoother financial transition if, for whatever reason, they lose their jobs. I think that the government should allow a particular grace period where a blind person can start a job, get paid, and keep all of their benefits for a designated amount of time, as insurance that the blind worker is secure in the job.  I also firmly believe that an employer should step in, if there is a financial crisis (a layoff or a firing, for example), in order to expedite the process with the government so that the individual can begin receiving an adequate amount of benefits immediately.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

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