Employment Visionaries: Henry Ford on Employment and Disabilities

Henry Ford Photo

From WikiMedia Commons, Literary Digest 1928-01-07 Henry Ford Interview (click photo to read caption)

Mr. Ford, visionary beyond the thinking of others in his time, believed that all people who want to work should be allowed to work, and that having physical challenges did not mean a person could not do just as much good work and receive just as much pay and benefits as others who need not overcome those physical challenges – they are different, not defective!

Mr. Ford  also had a higher wage and shorter (8 hour day) work day than others in his day, yet was more productive and weathered economic downturns without taking on debt or adverse affects on his laborers or profitability.

I do not represent that Mr. Ford was a perfect man – he would tell you himself that he was here to learn and grow just like everyone else. He made his mistakes, too. But what Mr. Ford did in his factory is an example that we need to remember, re-learn, and adopt nation-wide today: it speaks for itself.

John D. Nash, CEO
Adult Life Training, Inc.

From My Life and Work by Henry Ford In Collaboration With Samuel Crowther (starting around line 3320). Available download free from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7213 For the text of the WikiSource Article which provided the adjacent photo see https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Henry_Ford_on_his_plans_and_his_philosophy.

In a previous chapter I noted that no one applying for work is refused on account of physical condition. This policy went into effect on January 12, 1914, at the time of setting the minimum wage at five dollars a day and the working day at eight hours. It carried with it the further condition that no one should be discharged on account of physical condition, except, of course, in the case of contagious disease. I think that if an industrial institution is to fill its whole role, it ought to be possible for a cross-section of its employees to show about the same proportions as a cross-section of a society in general.

We have always with us the maimed and the halt. There is a most generous disposition to regard all of these people who are physically incapacitated for labour as a charge on society and to support them by charity. There are cases where I imagine that the support must be by charity–as, for instance, an idiot. But those cases are extraordinarily rare, and we have found it possible, among the great number of different tasks that must be performed somewhere in the company, to find an opening for almost any one and on the basis of production. The blind man or cripple can, in the particular place to which he is assigned, perform just as much work and receive exactly the same pay as a wholly able-bodied man would.

Article with Henry Ford photo

From WikiMedia Commons, Literary Digest 1928-01-07 Henry Ford Interview

I believe that there is very little occasion for charity in this world–that is, charity in the sense of making gifts. Most certainly business and charity cannot be combined; the purpose of a factory is to produce, and it ill serves the community in general unless it does produce to the utmost of its capacity. We are too ready to assume without investigation that the full possession of faculties is a condition requisite to the best performance of all jobs.

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I had all of the different jobs in the factory classified to the kind of machine and work … It turned out at the time of the inquiry that there were then 7,882 different jobs in the factory. Of these, 949 were classified as heavy work requiring strong, able-bodied, and practically physically perfect men; 3,338 required men of ordinary physical development and strength. The remaining 3,595 jobs were disclosed as requiring no physical exertion and could be performed by the slightest, weakest sort of men. In fact, most of them could be satisfactorily filled by women or older children. The lightest jobs were again classified to discover how many of them required the use of full faculties, and we found that 670 could be filled by legless men, 2,637 by one-legged men, 2 by armless men, 715 by one-armed men, and 10 by blind men. Therefore, out of 7,882 kinds of jobs, 4,034–although some of them required strength–did not require full physical capacity.

Those who are below the ordinary physical standards are just as good workers, rightly placed, as those who are above. For instance, a blind man was assigned to the stock department to count bolts and nuts for shipment to branch establishments. Two other able-bodied men were already employed on this work. In two days the foreman sent a note to the transfer department releasing the able-bodied men because the blind man was able to do not only his own work but also the work that had formerly been done by the sound men.

I want this painted on my outside office wall – please, someone!!

At Adult Life Training, Inc. our mission – our vision – is to take people out of their comfort zone, out of their habits of generational social dependency, out of their contentment with handouts – is to take them higher into a new place they have never dared hope they can experience: a place where they have real job skills that are worthy of real pay that they earned, not that they hob nosed and manipulated their way into getting. Our job is to help them see themselves as something far more than they had ever dreamed they could possibly become.

This picture captures the spirit of what we do. My (thus far) unpainted office wall needs something that speaks the things that we do to everyone who walks by. I want this picture painted across the entire wall – a mural so huge it cannot be missed.

And Mr. Musk: thank-you for inspiring us all to soar a little higher with your vision to enable people to settle on other planets. You’ve come a long way from your childhood in South Africa. Iron Man would be proud. And maybe he would photo bomb this … just because, well because he can.

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