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Disabled At Work

It’s a general assumption: “People with disabilities don’t work”.

I would like to react on that. By working I mean to earn income to provide for yourself (and your family). It’s not easy to live with a disability, either when your born with it or get disabled later in life. Everyone is able to be use-full, to participate, to work but it's about the circumstances.


Smart but disabled

It helps if you have had proper education and the access to do so. But even then, people with disabilities who are highly educated still struggle with finding a job.


Yes but No

In my environment abled people mostly react very surprised when I tell them how hard it was for me to find a job. "If I had a company I would hire you". I live in a western country where people assume we give each other equal treatment and opportunities. Maybe these assumptions are there because they have met me at some point and know I am capable of much. “The wheelchair is not a problem nowadays, I’m sure you will find a job, good luck”.


When hunting for a job on LinkedIn and other websites I barely got any reactions or even rejections. “Abled people face the same problem” is what I often hear. I know it was hard before my injury, but I can assure you it’s even harder when being disabled.


Mirror of society

Do I mention I have a disability on my resume? Or in my letter? Or do I wait till I get invited for a job interview? I tried variations. When I didn’t mention anything about being disabled at first on my resume or in the letter, people did get confused when I asked if the building/company is accessible for a person who uses a wheelchair. Recruiters were excited to help until they had to let me know I was again not invited because of accessibility or perhaps other reasons they never told me. In any case it was quiet a struggle. This was all Pre-Corona so online meetings or online job interviews where not a thing yet. I would hope employers, recruiters and HR departments are more flexible now.


Do employers consider my health is more vulnerable? How will colleagues act around me? Will the restroom be accessible? What If I get spasms during a meeting or presentation? What If I have an issue with incontinence? What If I can’t keep up with the expectations of my employer or colleagues?


Eventually

I found my first job as a disabled person through a foundation who helps to connect companies with disabled people. Foundations like slowly growing as there seems to be more attention brought to inclusion and disability. Next to applying myself regularly I was subscribed for two years before I got connected with a company. The job offer had nothing to do with my previous education or my interests as a person. It happened to be the case the company was looking to hire a disabled person because they work in the social domain and wanted to practice what they preach. I wanted to be independent asap and knew I was very aware I it was a rare opportunity.


Searching for a job, job interviews and getting hired all took forever but finally the day happened. After passing two interviews at this company I got hired!


Against all odds

In the Netherlands, where I live, there is a system in which a doctor gives an indication on how many hours a disabled person should be able to work according to the type of disability.


In my case a part-time office job should be doable. Since it was my first job & being disabled I had no idea how much energy it would cost and what work best combining it with the rest of my life. In the beginning it was a lot, I expected a lot my myself. And had enough awkward moments with colleagues because they had no idea how to act around someone with a disability.


Reality

The hours I work, I try to act as normal as one can be. In the first few months I went to the office three times a week, did what I had to do and drive back home, I was completely worn out. After 3 days I needed the rest of the week to recover. After a few months It went a lot better and I knew what my I could handle bodywise and what was expected of me at work.

Don’t forget everything I do takes way more time and energy than when being abled. Cooking, household, personal care, physiotherapy sessions and dealing with all other disability related issues will fill my week besides work. Other (abled) people expect me to do the same as them, but they have no idea about my intense morning routine, broken nights and the hassle to get simple things done. "Accept for the wheelchair, you don't look disabled"


The Dream

Participating as a disabled independent individual in society should be normal. To have a job and to earn money to provide for yourself and your family contributes to (self) worth, feeling of belonging, having value and happiness. I know all about this as I've experienced it myself. I was traumatized by the feeling of being excluded and ignored. Since having a job I feel more stable and worthy.


Not all people with disabilities can work in the traditional way. Create jobs for the people instead of trying to squeeze them in a box. There is a purpose for every human-being. There should be ways for everyone on this planet to make an honest and decent living. We need to change the way we think and break free from outdated concepts and structures that exclude people. #utopia


Future Failure

What worries me about the future is that in the current position I will probably earn the bare minimum the rest of my life. Unless I find a way to somehow earn more without working more hours. I am highly educated and am capable of much but my disability puts me in a difficult position. Well, it’s not my disability that holds me back but the system that discourages, demotivates, and lacks options. It’s complicated. But hey, never give up right.


The next 40 years I will probably keep working without ever making more hours, without promotion, not earning more, not be able to save money, or buy a (adapted) house. My options are very limited. I am aware of that. It sounds hopeless because humans are not made to only survive now but also focus on creating a better future. I always tend to look at the bright side; at least I can work and I can try to be part of society. I’ve come across many people who are not disabled (some pretend), who are very able to work but somehow not motivated and choose to live of a government benefit. That to me is a sign that the current system does NOT work.


People with disabilities do want to work but they need fair treatment, similar opportunities and should be compensated in a way that helps to move forward on a long term. Keeping us in uncertain and dependent situations only lead to misery, discomfort and also costs a lot of money.


It’s 2021 and people with disabilities are still being discriminated by the law system and structures in modern society.





#equality #equity #inclusion #diversity #disabled #ability #unitednations #vnverdrag #handicap #disabledlife #discrimination #ableism #disabilityadvocate #changetheworld #disabledpeople #disabledlivesmatter #purpose #access

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