Guest Commentary: Getting a Job

By Anna Taylor
October 8, 2009

Getting a job while being disabled is more challenging than one might imagine. I was lucky to get an on-call job that gave me something to be proud of. I am thankful for the opportunity. Now, I am looking for a second job to fill the time I am not using for my other job, and am finding it to be difficult, not because of the economic times we are in, but because “hiring the handicapped” is no longer something that employers think is important.

There are a lot of programs out there that try to help people with disabilities find jobs. With the economic situation there is a lot of uncertainty in these job agencies and it is hard to have hope. The hardest part is when these places make you go through all the paper work and testing, only to find out that they can’t help you? Sometimes grant funding depends on how many people pass through their doors and not on how many actually get some kind of supported work opportunity. I have been through a few of these systems. Not one of them have actually helped me find the second job. And why? There is
not enough money, resources and people to serve the need. I know the neediest ones should receive services first but what defines “need?”

I am frustrated because even though I am a good, hard working person, I am not good at taking tests. Clerical work requires that you to type at a certin speed and be absolutely accurate, one-hundred percent of the time. There are few exceptions to this requirement, but the time it takes to make a finished copy varies. Many employers expect accuracy and speed in this kind of work.

Something needs to be done to resolve the fear of hiring someone who may have a disability and may need accommodations. Lots of employers are not very willing to make accommodations for the disabled worker because it is not efficient for them. There are plenty of disabled citizens who would like to be productive members of society, but can’t because no one is willing to give them the opportunity.

I was very lucky to get my on-call job. I go to a therapeutic riding institute and need “side walkers” in order to stay on the horse. It turned out that one of them had an “in-home” business and decided to hire me to do computer work. At the time this was a perfect fit for me because I liked working from home and using my computer for various things.

Now that I am older I am finding that I would like to have a job outside the house for the socialization it can mean. I do not have a support system like the one I had when graduating from high school. Since both my parents still work, I am living at home still. This means a caregiver has to come into the home and help me through out the day. Due to my physical limitations, my caregiver would have to accompany me to any sort of job available.

No where on an application does it ask about whether or not you have a disability? This is probably because it might lead to discrimination by employers. Some people would argue that it isn’t important. But shouldn’t an employer be made aware of potential disabilities, not to deny the person a job, but to be prepared for the accommodations that may need to be made to successfully employ the person with a disability?

If given the chance, even people with disabilities can become productive citizens. In fact, there are many studies showing that persons with disabilities are highly reliable and motivated, given the chance to work and receiving necessary accommodations. But the unemployment rate for disabled workers is around the 90% level. What is even more ironic is that the people on staff that actually work alongside and with disabled workers, enjoy the experience. It gives them a sense of helping others while not being in competition with them.