Sunday, March 26, 2006

Attitude, Not Cost, Barrier to Disabled Workers

This article (linked in this post's title) by Catherine Komp at the New Standard confirms for me the sense I was getting, that the ADA has not created the hoped for environment of acceptance in the workplace for the disabled. Her additional comments relegated to the New Standard’s collective blog--because the material was a tad off topic--was even more meaningful for me as they spoke to the catch-22 that disabled people on SSI or SSDI encounter when they do attempt to add to their subsistence income with a workforce paycheck: they risk loosing the medical care that in some case their very lives depend on.

I have lived this. I have 90% vision loss and 50% hearing loss accompanied by a panic-anxiety mood disorder which can be managed with meds when I can be under a doctor's care. I have not been employed since 1987. Being married, I cannot be on SSI as long as my husband is employed and this once factored into his employment options--whether to take a job or not if it didn't provide health benefits for a spouse, for example. Currently he is employed but the hours fluctuate seasonally. A significant percentage of his earnings are sunk into the benefits package, including health care but during the slow months-which is three quarters of the year--we can't afford the co-pay. Thus I cannot get the minimal medical support I need. I would need to divorce him or be legally separated in order to get back on medical coupons. So much for family values. Ha. Ha.

There is another issue which she did not touch on and which I cannot find any information on and I think it is a glaring omission in the field of employment opportunities for the disabled: I was so excited by my introduction to word-processing when in college in the late eighties. My productivity increased by several hundred percent. When the internet was added to the mix in the mid nineties, I was thrilled as I saw it as the means to work at home where I could control my environmental needs. I do not understand why this has not caught on.

My skill set in the area of information accumulation and manipulation is extensive. Including but not exclusive to: word processing and database management, writing, reading and summarizing, researching--accumulating and organizing information and extrapolating insight from it. And I am a self-motivator. But because I have no degree and no work history this is all discounted. My expectation that having a computer and internet access would make me employable has been disillusioned and after reading this article I guess I understand why, tho I can't say I agree with the reasons: if most employers are leery of depending on disabled employees who are under their watchful eyes, why would they be eager to trust them under self-management at home?

I am convinced this evinces a lack of imagination, creativity and flexibility of mind. All of which, I would think, any employer who is worth his own salt in the corporate world should have in abundance. But what do I know about the corporate world. My only exposure to it, other than my husband's after work grumbling, is through books and articles like this one. I am currently reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch, which is completely disillusioning me of that assumption. Apparently, imagination creativity and flexibility of mind are the last things the corporate world wants of their workers. Most disturbing of all is Ehrenriech's discovery that ANY gap in one's employment history makes one unemployable. Where does that leave people like me?

(Most of this after the first paragraph was first composed and published to the comments section of Catherine Komp’s blog entry)

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