Today is the 70th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The United States Department of Labor started it in 1945 to help assist those of us with disabilities, of all types, to be able to gain employment and live by ourselves or contribute to society, which after all is a very reasonable goal. Just like Domestic Violence Awareness Month is to victims of DV, and breast Cancer Awareness Month is to the sufferers & survivors of that insidious disease, those that are disabled and want to work think this is fairly important.
If you suddenly became disabled and told you couldn’t work anymore what would you do? Over and above the jokes about finally taking a vacation and a nice long rest, how would you feel down deep inside? I dare say not very well. To be perfectly honest you feel useless and a burden on your family, reality or not. That is your reality.
You try and look for work, but no one wants you, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the economy. So what are some of the reasons, or observations you make while on the job hunt?
- You get treated like a pariah, or it seems that way. Your ‘disease’ is contagious
- You’re stupid, overnight, because you’re disabled(don’t discount this one, I’ve encountered it more than once in 12 years)
- You’re disabled, you can’t do the things we want and need you to do
- You’ll cost us too much money to accommodate, therefore we won’t even interview you, so we’ll find a good reason to deny the application
Being blunt, many companies when they see someone with a disability coming to their door to apply for a job, they simply don’t want anything to do with the person, despite what their policies say. They have anti-discrimination policies and mission statements, but those are just for current employees, not necessarily for an applicant. And if they never interview you then how can you prove discrimination against the disabled? You can’t, which for many hiring managers & other supervisors, solves their problem. To paraphrase an old adage ‘Why hire a potential problem, when you can just ignore it and it’ll go away?’ it may be sad but true, even in today’s world of tolerance for everyone and everything.
What are some of the other disadvantages to being disabled and trying to find a job? Here is another small list of them. There are many others who will have worse job search issues than these:
- Getting the proper training
- Locating the proper resources including advocates & assistance centers
- The system that the government has set up is cumbersome and time consuming. And the reliability isn’t very good at times
- Equipment you’ll need to do the job you’re hired for. Most employers don’t realize that
there are programs available to compensate them for the expenditures, at least partially
Those are just a few of the issues that disabled people have problems with in finding a job. Are their ways around those? For some of them, yes. For others, no. And unfortunately this leaves us feeling totally helpless and useless.
Yes, I said useless. Despite what we mean to our families, many of us feel absolutely useless to the world and many others because we can’t work. As useless as having a uni-cycle for carrying passengers.
Despite being disabled, we still want to contribute to society, our families, and pay our own way. One of the greatest things we would like is to be able to buy things for others, and a disability income doesn’t go too far. We want to work but no one will give you a chance. It’s disheartening and makes your gut hurt because you can’t help anyone. And I have met more than a few blind people who can’t find work who have fallen into a deep dark chasm of depression because of it.
Just a lil statistic that no one ever talks about… Of the blind people who want to work and not necessarily be on the ‘dole’, the unemployment rates are staggering. 59% of men and 69% of women. Those are higher than they were before the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in the early 90’s. And you want to tell me, and all disabled people, that there isn’t an employment issue with us and getting a job?
One of the greatest businessmen living today said something that can apply to all employers. Sir Richard Branson said succinctly “You can’t run a business without taking risks”. Are you ready to take the risk and hire a disabled person within your business? Or are you an analogy to what Wayne Gretzky once said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.
By not even trying to hire a disabled person you’re missing out. Possibly the next greatest thing in your business. Think about it and try hiring someone disabled. It may work or it may not, but if you take Sir Richard Branson & Wayne Gretzky to heart…
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 32 years in the security field. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many. Here you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear