Senator Tom Harkin is a longtime champion of people with disabilities I read on his website. There's a lot of information about disability rights, improving the employment situation for disabled people and equal opportunity and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities on Harkin's website. We'll see if anything comes from it. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm glad he supports disabled people and wants to see the situation in all areas improve for people with disabilities. It just seems like this has been talked about for several years but there isn't a lot of change. And with the financial situation in this country going down the tubes...well, that's not going to help! Three years ago, I went to a group meeting for disabled women at The Hospital for Joint Diseases in Manhattan. It was an opportunity for disabled women to get together and talk. At that time, I was still able to get around on crutches. There were 4 other women there and they were all in wheelchairs and all about 5 -19 years older than me. All of those women were concerned about getting jobs and wanted to talk about employment. I couldn't totally relate to them because, at that time, I wasn't working or looking to work. But now I can totally relate to them and I feel badly about not being able to help them then or really understand their worries. Now I can understand them and I share the same concerns. I need to find some work now and I'm discovering that it's not that easy. It's been 9 years since I worked. I may be smart and personable but I'm in a wheelchair and wear oxygen...why wouldn't an employer want to hire an able-bodied woman instead of me?
It’s difficult to stay focused some days. I feel useless, embarrassed and ashamed sometimes. I especially feel this way when I call places about working and, despite the info on their website, the computer, they act like I'm nuts and tell me they aren't hiring. Yesterday I found a website that supposedly lists jobs with employers willing to hire disabled people. I went looking for listings in my area. There were quite a few for Starbucks. I thought about working there but couldn't picture myself trying to maneuver my wheelchair behind the counter, especially in a really busy Starbucks. I had visions of coffee and foam everywhere including all over me! So I pulled up the job requirements, a very long list. The first one said "Lots of standing, walking and moving about in small area". So much for that job. But in the rest of that long list were requirements that knocked out just about every disabled person. It seemed to be a case of saying you're willing to hire the disabled but then making the job unfriendly to them. Nice.
It's the same with social services. I call them periodically n the off chance I might get a better, more helpful answer one day. Usually, though, the person on the other end of the phone tells me I get a lot of money and sounds bored or annoyed talking to me. When I ask them how I’m supposed to pay my rent and support my self on $1,000 a month they just say “I don’t know”. I haven't found much in the way of resources for people in situations like mine. I wonder what other disabled individuals do. I see many websites that promote the independence of the disabled or "talk" about the independence of the disabled but there doesn't seem to be a lot of actual, tangible assistance to make independence a reality for people like me. I am not finished looking for assistance, making phone calls, writing letters etc. but so far it seems that to have adequate shelter, food, clothing etc. I have to be dependant on family which I don't have or married or independently wealthy?!! It's frustrating and humiliating. And, actually I have finished making I'll of the phone calls and sending all of the emails I can think of but once I finish, I start up again!
Any suggestions, ideas, stories?!