March 14, 2014 | SOI General: Headquarters

The "Boys" in the Bunkhouse: Men With Intellectual Disabilities Triumph over Exploitation

By Lynn Aylward

The schoolhouse that became a prison.

An 8,000-word front page story in the New York Times tells a gripping and sometimes gruesome tale of several dozen men with intellectual disabilities who for over three decades endured servitude and abuse from their employers. The men rose at 3 a.m. every weekday in Atalissa, Iowa, worked grueling shifts doing unsavory work...and earned $65 a month. Some twenty of the men finally emerged from their virtual prison when a sister of one fought past rebuffs from several state agencies and contacted a reporter at The Des Moines Register. That happened in 2008--and since then the men won a settlement for back wages and are doing well-- so it is not breaking news. But the story is not well-known outside Iowa and it shakes any complacency that exclusion and maltreatment of people with ID is a mostly-solved challenge. Visit the NYT website for photos, videos, and an honor roll listing the names, ages, and current circumstances of "The Men of Atalissa."

About Lynn Aylward: I work in communications for Special Olympics.

Do you have a story to Share?

Tell us your story so we can publish it for others to see.


Special Olympics - Become a Fan

Limited-Time Match Offer: Donate Monthly and Help Us Reach More Athletes

Monthly giving is easy and convenient. Donate today and transform lives all year long through the joy of sport.

Special Olympics gets an extra $100 for each new monthly donor.