Disability + Employment

In one month, I will graduate from college with my bachelors degree. Part of me is very surprised this is even happening, even two years ago I doubted that I would graduate. Yet, as my cap and gown has been ordered and I make plans for a party, I find myself thinking about the future

As someone with an extensive background in both activism and non-profit work, I thought it would be fairly easy to find a job. I have years of experience, a BA, great references, and am a very good interviewer if I do say so myself. However, now after looking for about a month, I realize that being disabled in the work force is not something easy.

Being someone with a visible disability, I do not have the choice whether or not to disclose. I am disabled and I show it. This makes the interviewing process stressful. For example, on Saturday I had an interview for a organizing position at a fairly large organization. The interview was amazing, but at the end I tried to leave and a man came out of an office and said that the elevator didn’t work after 4. It was at that point 4:45. The manager of the office called the super and I had to wait for him for about an hour before I could leave. It was a very awkward moment and made me realize about the accessibility of jobs. Though I am educated, experience, and smart, my disability might make it hard for employers to hire me if their facilities weren’t accessible.

In addition when the interview was being conducted, the employer mentioned they offered 5 full sick days and 10 half sick days. That made me nervous because as someone with a chronic illness, I often don’t feel well enough to come to work or to get out of my house. In addition I have an abundance of medical needs that require at least 1 doctors appointment a week.

How do we make employment more accessible for the disabled? Especially the chronically ill who may not be able to work a traditional job? What options do we have? How can we make sure their time and skills are effectively used?

For me the major draw to employment besides salary is health insurance. When I heard that one job offered a PPO plan, I almost screamed. How do we offer comprehensive health insurance to those who work part time? Or who are at minimum wage jobs?

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but we need to be working on solutions. This is a huge issue in our community.

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