Tag Archives: employment

Recommended Reading for December 21, 2010

James S. Fell for the Los Angeles Times: Holistic nutrition is weak on science, strong on selling supplements

You may not know the term, but you’ve surely heard its claims. Among other things, holistic nutritionists (or HNs, as they call themselves) may teach that fluoride and pesticides are lethal, that most diseases and detrimental behaviors are diet-related and that many people would benefit from taking numerous supplements. I’ve read plenty of articles by HNs in which they assert that they are disparaged by mainstream medicine and warn you not to trust modern medicine.

Gina Kolata for the New York Times: Tests detect Alzheimer’s risks, but should patients be told?

It is a quandary that is emblematic of major changes in the practice of medicine, affecting not just Alzheimer’s patients. Modern medicine has produced new diagnostic tools, from scanners to genetic tests, that can find diseases or predict disease risk decades before people would notice any symptoms.

Kathryn Roethel for the San Francisco Chronicle: Chronic migraines: When pain is all in the head

After Robertson’s headaches began, she started wearing sunglasses to school because the migraines made her sensitive to light. Then she gave up fencing – a sport she’d competed in for seven years. She cut school to half time, then had to quit altogether.

In their Potrero Hill home, Robertson’s family put in skylights because the light bulbs were too bright for her. They stopped cooking with garlic and onions because the scents made her nauseous. On the rare occasions when she is well enough to eat meals at the dinner table, her mother lowers the lights and everyone speaks calmly and softly.

David Sirota at Truthout: Why the “Lazy Jobless” Myth Persists

First, there’s what psychologists call the Just-World Fallacy — the tendency to believe the world is inherently fair. This delusion is embedded in our pervasive up-by-the-bootstraps, everyone-can-be-a-millionaire catechism. The myth of the lazy unemployed can seem to make sense because it connects those ancient fables to current news, effectively alleging that today’s jobless deserve their plight.

Crazy Mermaid at Bipolar: Crazy Mermaid’s Blog: Mental Illness: Brain Function Impairment

Re-branding the current term “mental illness” to the more accurate description “brain functioning impairment”, will go a long way towards solving our stigma problem. We can reposition the impairment term as the politically correct term, and phase out the awful connotations of the old term. At a minimum, rebranding will go a long way toward forcing the general public to change its perception of people with BFI.

Recommended Reading for November 30, 2010

Jessica Pauline Ogilvie for the Los Angeles Times: Stuttering: Working to free the words

An estimated 3 million American adults have a stutter that didn’t resolve in childhood, according to the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation of America. As kids, many dealt with the giggles of classmates and confusion of teachers; as adults, they often deal with uncertain glances and the impatience of strangers. They’ve long sought comfort from each other, sharing their experiences at conferences and advocacy groups.

Eli Clare at eliclare.com/blog: Disability Pride (from a few months ago, but definitely worth a read!)

Disability Pride calls for celebration, hope, rebellion. We take shame, fear, and isolation, turn them around, and forge wholeness. Pride refuses to let the daily grind of ableism, discrimination, exclusion, violence, and patronizing define who we are. Pride knows our history, joyfully insists upon our present, and stretches into our future.

Wheelchair Dancer at cripwheels: disability is a feminist issue

By using disability as she does, she makes herself smaller, less objectionable to the man; she dismisses herself and undervalues herself. She does her best to dodge what might be a harsh remark
about her intellectual capacities. She does disability in the old way, a way in which the value of our diverse minds and bodies is not acknowledged. Her disability is a weakness that separates her from an actively feminist goal of being an equal partner in the conversation and the game.

Brittany-Ann at A Bookish Beemer: A Glimpse of an Employed Epileptic

I know. I’m saying it’s wrong. I’m saying that the hoops one has to jump through, if neurologically atypical as I am, just to ensure you’re not fired because of being neurologically atypical, is ridiculous. That I should first have to reveal my medical history (which is private) to my managers, then explain to them what epilepsy is, THEN explain how it affects me, to finally say that it might prevent me from coming into work someday in the future, maybe, is ridiculous.

WHEELIE cATHOLIC: Dear Illegal Parker

As I passed the half a dozen handicap spots, I noticed that your car didn’t even have a placard or plate. I wondered why even on Thanksgiving at a senior housing complex, someone would illegally park in an accessible spot. I suppose you didn’t think someone in a wheelchair might really need that spot.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading at disabledfeminists dot com. Please note if you would like to be credited, and under what name/site.

Signal Boost: Employment Survey for People With Mobility Impairments

If you have a mobility impairment and limitation, you may be eligible to participate in a new research project. This research aims to understand how people with mobility impairments and limitations accomplish job tasks, how their environment affects their worksite participation, and what, if any, help they need to complete employment activities.

Eligibility requires that you:

  • Have a mobility impairment and limitation (difficulty moving legs and/or arms)
  • Be employed for at least 2 years at your current job
  • Work at least 20 hours per week regularly at your current job
  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have access to a computer
  • Can read at or above the 6th grade level
  • Can enter responses into a web-based survey or direct another individual to enter your responses into a web-based survey

If eligibility is established, you will receive a code to log on to the survey site and complete the study. Qualified participants will be asked to complete the survey a second time in 4-6 weeks. All information will be kept confidential and no connection between you and your survey answers will be made. Participants will be reimbursed for their time and effort. The web-based assessment will take approximately one hour to complete.

Link to the survey is here, as always, FWD/Forward does not have any additional information about this survey, and you are encouraged to contact the organisers if you have questions or concerns.

Recommended Reading for 1 November, 2010

Welcome to November. Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Queen Emily at Questioning Transphobia: attacking the already vulnerable:

In the UK, people with disabilities have been among the hardest hit by the recent Thatcher 2.0 ConDem cuts of the Osborne Review. The employment support allowance (ESA) which was previously able to be claimed until the person finds a job has now been set with a limit of one year. I’m sure that’ll be of great comfort to people, cos disabilities also expire after year amiright?

It’s election time in the United States. Melissa Mitchell at Service Dogs: A Way of Life: Cast your vote November 2.

I ask you, my loyal readers how can we as a community expect our current rights to continue to be protected, our equity as members of society to be validated, or our issues to be seen as important when we are not seen as a community that votes?

Also, Leah at Cromulent Words: Voting and Privilege:

And what do you need to do after you’ve recognised your privilege of voting access? You can either use your privilege to uplift the people you oppress or you can ignore it and continue to harm (directly or indirectly) the most vulnerable people in our country.

New South Wales, Australia: ABC News: Thousands rally for disability services funds

The State Government committed funding for disability services five years ago under the Stronger Together program, but money for the next five years has not been included in the forward estimates of the next budget.

Times of India: Sleep disturbances ups work disability:

A new study, conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in collaboration with the universities of Turku and London, has revealed that sleep disturbances increase the risk of work disability and may slow the return to work process.

That’s all for this time. Send your links to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com. Let us know if/how you want to be credited.

Recommended Reading for 8 October, 2010

Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Anna linked to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage of this story earlier in the week, now here is Cara’s analysis at The Curvature: Australian Women Report Sexual Abuse in Victoria Psychiatric Wards:

Everyone deserves safety, no matter what their mental health or disability status. But there is an extra responsibility to keep safe those who have been placed in restrictive and vulnerable environments.

stuff to say in class by Amanda Forest Vivian at I’M SOMEWHERE ELSE:

I mean, to me this is common sense and people should already be questioning “non-disabled people>>>>everyone else forever,” but if we really need a study to show that forced normalization in every area of life is really NOT SMART, studying women would be an easy way to do it.

Sorry I’m so inconvenient by Kali at Brilliant Mind Broken Body:

I hate things like this, where it feels like I’m treated as an inconvenience. It’s not like I get some kind of power trip asking for accomodations. I don’t push people around because it’s fun. When I ask for something, it’s because I NEED it, and my health, safety, and ability to continue going to school are jeopardized.

Look, I’m sorry I’m so inconvenient. But if you had to deal with the sheer number of inconveniences I deal with every day because of my disabilities, you’d realize that I’m really asking for very little.

From the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, American Apparel Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination:

American Apparel, Inc., a clothing manufacturer which operates what it says is the largest garment factory in the nation, violated federal law when it terminated a disabled garment worker while he was on medical leave for cancer treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed last week.

At the New Zealand Herald: Call to rescue IHC providers rejected:

Health Minister Tony Ryall has ruled out a Government bailout of disability services facing hundreds of millions of dollars debt for backpay arising from an Employment Court ruling.

Send your links to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com. Let us know if/how you want to be credited.

Disability and Work: Fair Pay is a Disability Rights Issue

For people with disabilities who work, exploitation is a common fact of life. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Many nations have programmes allowing companies to hire people with disabilities at rates below the minimum wage. These programmes are often referred to as ‘occupational therapy’ or ‘sheltered workshop’ programs, with the idea that work, for the disabled person, is a form of ‘therapy.’ Some of these organisations have very negative reputations because of a history of worker abuse and exploitation. The thing is, actually, work is work, no matter who is doing it, and unfair pay is unfair pay, period.

Unfair pay is a disability rights issue because, right now, in countries all over the world, the law freely permits unfair wages for people with disabilities. Unfair pay is structured right into social programmes designed for people with disabilities and it’s not only tolerated, but encouraged. Companies are told that they can hire people with disabilities more cheaply than nondisabled people, and enjoy a little public relations boost by ‘charitably’ providing ‘productive work’ to people with disabilities.

Disability and work are fraught issues; here in the United States, on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, clear disparities and problems can be seen (h/t Liz Henry), and these problems are not limited to the US. Some people with disabilities want to work and cannot; because of their disabilities, because they become ineligible for benefits they need if they start working, because they cannot get accommodations, for a myriad of other reasons. Some people are working when they should not be, because they have to in order to survive. And some disabled employees are treated as a cheap source of disposable labour, as I discussed in the post talking about abuse of intellectually disabled workers at an Iowa meatpacking plant.

So, I was horrified when I encountered a story about Karen Smith, a woman with disabilities working in Geelong, Australia. Smith worked for what is known as a ‘supported employment programme’ for over a decade packing jam jars. Her wages, until recently, were $6 AUD per hour. According to Fair Work Australia, the current minimum wage in Australia is $15 AUD per hour for a 38 hour week.

However, Karingal, the organisation she works for, requested a federal government review of their programme and wage policies. The outcome of that review? A decision that Smith was being paid too much, and her wages should be cut to $2 AUD/hour. The only reason they weren’t cut lower was because internal policies at Karingal limit pay cuts.

The original government recommendation? $1.20 AUD per hour. The same trick was used in Iowa to keep wages for disabled workers low; the argument goes that people should be paid for the amount of work they do relevant to what a nondisabled worker would do, evidently, and the government decided that Smith only did $1.20 AUD worth of work per hour. That is less than 10% of the minimum wage.

Karingal, which employs 125 disabled workers, rejected suggestions it was exploiting Ms Smith.

The company claims it runs the supported employment program at a loss, while its employees enjoy being associated with the scheme.

I see this claim made a lot by organisations that do this sort of thing. They argue that they are providing a service, they’re running at a loss, really no profit at all in it, truly, but I find that hard to believe. This is not to say that these organisations are rolling in money or anything ludicrous like that, they are obviously not, but I find the setup rather suspect. Workers who are involved in such programmes are not paid directly by their employers. The programme pays them, out of funds paid by employers to the programme. There’s a bit of a black box effect here that makes it difficult to see how much money the programme is receiving for a given employee’s labour. How are we to know that these programmes aren’t exploiting people when it can be hard to find evidence to the contrary?

“We’re actually paying them more than what they’re worth because people like to work and like to be associated with it. We run (supported employment) at a loss in effect.” (source)

I’ve heard this narrative before too, and somehow it always feels very patronising to me. Yes, some people do like to work. Yes, people are trained to believe that they have more value to society when they work (and people who don’t work are shamed and told they are worthless). There’s a lot of value attached to a particular kind of ‘productivity’ as defined by nondisabled people. But, somehow, these statements always come out to me as seeming a bit, well, like patting people on the head while they are tasked with repetitive and pointless things and saying ‘well, the dear lambs like to feel special, you know.’

Fortunately, this case got a great deal of attention, and Smith’s wages were restored after a great deal of media brouhaha, although she is still not being offered the minimum wage for her work. Disabled workers are being exploited all over the world with unfair wages; this case happened to get some traction in the media, but what about all the cases that do not? Getting fair pay is an important aspect of receiving respect and fair treatment by society; if our own governments legalise unequal pay for our labour, how can we hope to combat ableist attitudes in the workplace, let alone in society in general?

Abuse of Intellectually Disabled Workers at Iowa Meatpacking Plant

Note: There are a number of links to news stories in this post. All of them have problematic language.

A horrifying story out of Iowa has been getting some press attention over the last few days, if you know where to look1. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report detailed the abuse of workers with intellectual disabilities in a meat packing plant and it looks like the labour contractor responsible, Henry’s Turkey Service, is going to be brought up on charges. I can find stories on this dating back to early 2009; the uptick in interest appears to be the result of news that more federal charges are going to be filed.

The labour contractor, based in Texas, provides crews that go all over the country and has done so since the 1970s. This particular group of 21 men was sent to a plant in Iowa, West Liberty Foods. They were kept in a bunkhouse with boarded up windows and space heaters for heat; Iowa gets mighty cold in the winter and space heaters are unlikely to cut it. These men were getting up at three in the morning seven days a week to work in a meatpacking plant, and some of them were ’employed2for decades.

Here’s a description of the conditions:

“The living conditions were worse than squalor,” she said. “There were fire hazards, no heat, their rooms were crawling with cockroaches. It was just filth, a nightmare.” (source)

West Liberty was paying Henry’s Turkey Service around $11,000 United States Dollars a month for the men’s labour, and they were making, literally, pennies on the dollar:

The report found that West Liberty Foods paid Henry’s Turkey Service as much as $11,000 per week for the disabled men’s labor. Henry’s Turkey Service then paid the men a combined total of between $340 and $500 per week, or about 41 cents an hour, The Des Moines Register reported.

Compared to the pay the men would have gotten at minimum wage, the report found that the company underpaid them by more than $1 million during the last three years of the company’s operation. But the underpaid amount could climb because other workers doing the same job earned between $9 and $12 per hour. (source)

How was this justified?

…to justify lower wages the lawyer explained how by using a Department of Labor formula the company then calculated how much to pay based on how many disabled men it takes to equal the amount of work done any one man. His example was three-to-one. (source)

This story is primarily being reported as a case of employment discrimination and much of the litigation surrounds the back wages and pay these men are owed. This is definitely an issue and I’m glad to see it being addressed. But this is also a very clear case of abuse of people with disabilities. And I am deeply disturbed to learn how the EEOC deals with abuse of disabled workers:

Under federal law, once the EEOC determines that the rights of disabled workers have been violated, it must attempt to halt the violations through an informal process of “conference, conciliation and persuasion.” The commission plans to send a proposed conciliation agreement – a settlement of sorts – to Henry’s owners. If the owners reject the proposed settlement and refuse to negotiate, the EEOC has the option of taking the company to court. (source)

Evidently, if you are a disabled worker and you are being abused by an employer, including abuse like being kept in squalid conditions and being taunted and name-called by coworkers, attempts to work the situation out amicably must fail before more aggressive measures can be pursued.

This is a labour rights issue, but it is also an abuse issue. And it illustrates the critical need to get tougher protections in place for workers with disabilities. These conditions should never have happened in the first place and they definitely should not have been allowed to persist for decades. There would be widespread outrage if nondisabled people were involved in the case, but as it is, most of the reporting and attention seems to be happening in Iowa itself. This is being treated as a local news story, instead of what it is, which is a heinous outrage and a grave violation of human rights and all reasonable decency.

And it’s being treated as a one time event, rather than evidence of a systemic problem. Certainly, the news says, this case is awful and it’s good that charges are being filed. But there’s not a lot of exploration into how and why this happened. Some advocates are quoted in the articles, as well as family members, and they are righteously infuriated, but I don’t see any quotes from people with disabilities, including any of the workers involved; once they were removed from the bunkhouse, they were apparently whisked into group homes.

Henry’s Turkey Service is not the only agency that provides contract labour like this. West Liberty is not the only employer which tries to cut costs by using contract labour. This is a structural problem, not a local news issue. Workers with disabilities and workers with nebulous immigration status endure horrific abuses in this country; the situation at West Liberty is repeated over and over again all over the United States because of the attitude that these individuals are a cheap source of disposable labour, to be used up and thrown away.

And the people ‘in charge,’ the people who might be empowered to investigate and take action? Well:

Muscatine County Sheriff David White said recently that he is confident the people who ran Henry’s Turkey Service treated the bunkhouse residents well.

“Our take on it was, you know, that they were doing some pretty good things with these guys,” he said. (source)

The reason no one did anything about the hostile working environment, atrocious living conditions, and economic abuses of these men is that they were regarded as something less than human. And employment law appears to reinforce that idea by suggesting that the first step in abuse cases like this is not filing charges, but ‘conciliation and persuasion.’

  1. Which is to say, ‘if you have the time to search for news stories that are falling through the cracks.’
  2. I use scare quotes here because from what I understand of this case, this was more like servitude than employment.

Aware of what exactly?

Cross-posted at Zero at the Bone and Feministe.

Well, it’s Disability Awareness Month in Indiana, USA. Sound Bend, IN, network WSBT are raising awareness with a story about Sarah Schelstraete, who has Down Syndrome. It’s called Sarah’s Story: Hard at work despite disabilities. One thousand points if you can anticipate from the title what my major problem with the article was.

Now, impairments can make particular kinds of work, or work at all, difficult for people with disabilities, particularly when accommodations – be they ramps or particular lighting or a chair or whatever – are not provided. Leaving aside any accommodations Ms Schelstraete might utilise (it’s irrelevant and really none of our business) there’s no indication as to what impact her impairment might have that would make it hard for her to work at her job as the article title suggests. In fact, the article doesn’t tell us what her job actually is, but moving right along. Now, I’m not saying she definitely doesn’t have challenges related to her impairment, but rather that I have a problem with a particular narrative that this article taps into. This is a narrative that erases Ms Schelstraete’s individual situation, whatever that might be, in favour of conveying disability as something the poor dears must overcome! in their tear-inducing (to abled people) efforts! to live a normal life! which includes paid work!

Perhaps it is that push to gloss everything over that skews the narrative here, but let’s take a gander at the actual information the article provides. Ms Schelstraete is clearly a ‘dependable employee,’ as her supervisor Donna Martis says. She does her job well; interviewees are enthused about her being good at her job. There is not really a need, it would seem, to say that she is doing a good job in spite of her being disabled. She is good at her job. And she is disabled. Just like she is good at her job and a woman, good at her job and a daughter, good at her job and a resident of Indiana, good at her job and, I don’t know, maybe she likes detective shows or cupcakes or whatever. But time and again when disabled people are featured in the media, there’s a kind of shock that “those people” could achieve anything of worth – worth defined according to ableist standards around paid work, of course.

As such, I have a problem with wording like this in the article:

‘Martis said Sarah is a valuable employee who knows how to do her work, and requires little supervision.’

Or how about this?

‘Like any hard-working employee, Sarah knows one big benefit of having a job is making money. She often uses her paycheck to buy DVDs and CDs.’

Yep, just like everybody else – yet her competence must be uniquely examined and confirmed by all these people, despite her having been employed by the same laboratories for seventeen years. This is yet another example of the media trope in which PWD are achieving! through! the hardship! Would you like to know what a hardship is? For many PWD, sometimes more than our impairments themselves? Putting up with that condescending bullshit and fighting to be approached as actual people who should be approached with respect. Because handing out “well done!” stickers has nowhere near of the same value as does being treated like a person with things to offer.

These kinds of awareness-raising stories do little more than give abled readers/viewers/listeners a lift, a feel good story they can tuck away out of mind when they’re done. It’s easier for PWD to be a one-dimensional story, those people put there to light up abled people’s worlds with inspiration, prompting a whispered gratefulness that they’re not one of them. How about we raise some awareness of the social oppression attached to being disabled? Awareness ought to be raised about how many disabled people are out of work because, as Ms Schelstraete’s employment consultant Stacey Simcox says, many ‘don’t give someone the chance because they already have the mindset that they’re not going to be able to do the job even with the support’. About how disabled people so often are treated as though they’re being done a favour by being employed at all. About how work can be a struggle or impossible because of workplace bullying. Because of refusal to provide decent wages. Because employers won’t grant equitable working conditions or accommodations.

And let’s raise awareness about the valuation of work. There’s a nasty thread that runs through these kind of stories that holds disabled people to be societal leeches, a drain on resources. This kind of thinking defines human worth in terms of money, as though people are only good for how much money they contribute and how little they take from welfare or healthcare programs and such. It’s the kind of argument used against poor people who need that assistance, it’s the kind of argument that has led to women’s unpaid work in the home being so devalued. It’s thinking that tries to shame those who utilise thoroughly deserved government assistance, as though it doesn’t exist for a reason.

I am continually astounded by negative reinforcement of difference, but barely ever really surprised. You’d think efforts to raise awareness would require being aware.

Tasting Fear

[This here is a warning that the author has written a post about, amongst other things, being depressed and suicidal. For this reason there is a clicky thing. Use it in whatever health you got. Also please note that with respect to my wife and our marriage you are getting exactly one perspective–mine–and everything is filtered through my experiences of abuse. This is not an objective reporting of events.]

Y’all who’ve been following this adventure know I’ve been fucked up for a while now. It’s been next to impossible to get any work done–it took me until five-thirty this morning to get caught up on my inbox. Today I got to explain why I should keep my job. On the phone. I don’t know as I was very convincing. Being highly ambivalent about wanting to keep it at all isn’t helpful with the convincing. Nor the panic that comes with phones, the stammering dysphasia aphasia that is so heavily influenced by stress.

Maybe I’ll get to keep it through the end of the month. I keep telling myself I should be at my desk now working.

I’m in bed with the notebook and I haven’t gotten dressed. I woke up six hours ago. Continue reading Tasting Fear

The Opposite of “Disabled” is Not “Employable”

According to the United State government, disability is “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” Or, in non-regulatory terms, disability is when a physical or mental impairment will last at least a year and will make someone unable to work. The ability to work is right there in the definition. A person who cannot work is disabled. If that person can work, they are not disabled. Disability and employability are mutually exclusive states of being.

That definition comes from the Social Security Administration and is applied to people applying for disability benefits, basically a wage replacement program to compensate for the salary the person cannot earn – so the focus on employability makes some sense. But more and more, I see this framework for defining and evaluating disability applied outside the benefits context, in deciding if someone is “‘really’ disabled.” It’s also notable that these wage replacement programs are the most commonly known and discussed form of disability-based benefits – while I’m used to seeing articles about how to handle the Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) program, I rarely see coverage of programs from the Department of Rehabilitations, which provides vocational training and support to PWDs. And the false equivalence of disability and unemployability is problematic for a lot of reasons.

  • There are a whole lot of people with disabilities who are not employed due to problems with the economy and with employers who discriminate against PWDs when hiring or fail to sufficient accommodate PWDs while employed. Assuming that unemployment is due solely to a person’s disability status, rather than systemic stigma and discrimination, places the responsibility for finding and keeping a job solely on the shoulders of the PWD. This shifts focus entirely away from the employers who have ultimate power over whether an individual is going to have a job. Take a look at employment statistics for the federal government itself, where “the severely disabled represent 0.94 percent of the government’s workforce.” And despite those low numbers, the government has no problem telling people that unemployment is a disability issue.
  • When disability is defined as an inability to work, that overlooks an enormous segment of people with disabilities. About 37% of PWDs in the United States are employed – 8,581,869 people. But their ability to work does not negate or erase their disabilities. Those disabilities continue to exist and implying they do not lets employers off the hook for acknowledging and accommodating those disabilities in the workplace. It is already easy for an employer to overlook an informal request for accommodation or demand overbroad access to private medical files to “prove” whether or not the requesting employee “actually” has a disability in response to an accommodation request. It’s impossible to say how many employed PWDs have successfully requested and received needed accommodations relative to those who have been too intimidated to ask or had employers unwilling to fulfill their legal obligation to provide accommodations. But I would venture to guess that it’s quite difficult and involves risk for the individual employee. The stereotype that people who can work are not disabled and do not “really” need or deserve accommodation only encourages this behavior.
  • In our society, employability is often equated with worth and value on a fundamental level. In the current bad economy, lots of people have been losing their jobs, and half of them feel that being unemployed has changed their lives for the worse. Being unemployed is seen as shameful, humiliating, a sort of failure to grow up and develop into a “real person.” Obviously, having “disabled” be seen as a synonym for something with those negative connotations does a disservice to people in both groups.