National Disability Employment Awareness Month, started in 1945 by the Department of Labor, begins October 1. Many people will dismiss this observation for the disabled because “They are useless and can’t do anything but sit and put screws in little baggies.” This attitude is more prevalent than most may think.
And this attitude has something powerful to say about those that are disabled and seeking fulfilling employment. Some will just give up when they encounter it, but most refuse to bow. It can be extremely debilitating, physically & mentally.
A question to ponder: What would you do if you suddenly became disabled and told you couldn’t work and support your family? What would you do? Disregarding the jokes about finally taking a vacation and a nice long rest, how would you feel in the pit of your stomach? Probably, you would feel useless and a burden. Remember, “Perception is Reality”.
As an example, when I went blind in 2003, I had been having some vision issues. I was fine when I went to bed but when I woke up one July morning, I couldn’t see well enough to identify the icons on the computer screen. I can truthfully tell you I was a wee bit upset.
You try and look for work, but no one wants you, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the economy, your skills, or knowledge. So, what are some of the reasons, or observations you make while on the job hunt? And to answer your question before hand, yes I have encountered these, unfortunately several times:
- “That’s such a good disabled person wanting to go to work”. It is said patronizingly and it seems like they want to come over and pat you on the head like a good obedient pet.
- Your disability/disease is contagious so we don’t want you around, like a cat with a wet paw shaking it in disgust.
- You’re stupid because you’re disabled. Yes this is the way we are treated at times when applying for a job, especially one that may be outside the norm for a blind person.
- You’re disabled, so you can’t do what we need you to do. And being honest, this may not be true but it leads directly into the next one.
- Your accommodations to fit in and work will cost too much, so we’ll find a reason to deny the application without being overtly discriminatory.
Many companies when they see a disabled person coming thru the door to apply, they simply don’t want anything to do with them, despite what their anti-discrimination policies may say. Generally, the policies are for employees not for applicants. To paraphrase an old adage “Why hire a potential problem, when you can just ignore it…?”
I have filled out applications and been called for interviews several times. They are all excited to get someone with my knowledge & experience into the company to interview. Then they discover I’m blind. The interview is nothing more than perfunctory and I’m out in less than 5 – 10 minutes. Not very encouraging.
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 others who will have worse job search issues than I have had:
- Getting the proper training. If you need training you have to go through the state vocational rehabilitation which can take anywhere from 6 – 24 months to get in. Or pay for it yourself, which can be very expensive, not to mention finding a place that has the software to accommodate you.
- Finding employment that is fulfilling and utilizing your skills, experience, & knowledge. which is hard enough for someone who isn’t disabled.
- Locating the proper resources including employment centers to assist. Most employment centers don’t have the necessary facilities for the disabled, government funded or not.
- The system that the government has developed is cumbersome and time consuming. And the reliability…
- Equipment you’ll need to do the job you’re hired for. Most employers don’t realize that there are programs available that can, partially, compensate them for the expenditures and there are innumerable options for freeware as well.
Those are just a few of the issues that disabled people have problems with in finding employment. Are their ways around those? For some, yes, others, no. And unfortunately this can leave us feeling totally useless. Despite being disabled we still want to pay our own way.
A minor statistic that no one wants to ever talk about… Of the blind people who want to work and not be on Social security disability, the unemployment rates are staggering. 59% of men and 69% of women who want to work can’t find employment. Those are higher than they were before the Americans with Disabilities Act were enacted in the early 90s. And you want to tell disabled people, that there isn’t an issue with us getting fulfilling employment?
Are you ready to see beyond the physical and hire a disabled person within your business? Does it really matter if they are blind, wheelchair bound, deaf, or paraplegic? If the person has the skills to do the job then let them do the job. Take another look at one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurs above and take the leap. Here is a quote from 60 years ago for you to ponder:
“We have all the typical and ordinary range of talents and techniques, attitudes, and aspirations. Our underlying assumption is not as it is with some other groups the intrinsic helplessness and everlasting dependency of those who happen to lack sight, but rather their innate capacity to nullify and overrule this disability to find their place in the community with the same degree of success and failure to be found among the general population.”
Professor Jacobus tenBroek
National Federation of the Blind National Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana
July 6, 1956.
Robert D. Sollars, who has been blind since 2003, is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where 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