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Go to: Some of Our Beliefs

Our Origins

The British Columbia Association of Professionals with Disabilities became a provincially incorporated non-profit in 2003.

The non-profit's origins began when a group of BC professionals with disabilities felt that issues facing Canadian professionals with disabilities were largely going unnoticed and not represented leading them to be under-supported, under-employed, and excluded from the workforce. This came from personal, professional, and community outreach experience (including their work in employment, disability supports, rehabilitation, education, and training for people with disabilities). They created the Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities (www.canadianprofessionals.org) so it would take a leadership role to address these issues and create opportunities for professionals with disabilities to be heard and to realise the dreams they worked hard for attained.

For years before the non-profit was formed, these professionals with disabilities, as individuals, were seeking information nationally and globally on statistics, information and support solely for professionals with disabilities, but the information was meagre or non-existent, and questions posed with this topic were often met with confusion and annoyance except by professionals with disabilities who knew that their concerns were frequently going unaddressed and unrecognised. This group also realised that there was a need to provide camaraderie and support amongst professionals with disabilities, and a need for a national clearinghouse of information and support for them, no matter where they lived in Canada.

At the same, it was felt that a regional voice for professionals with disabilities should address concerns specific to the region and take on a much more local, grassroots, and individualised approach when supporting professionals with disabilities. Likewise, all parties believed that actions at the local, regional, and national levels would be most effective by using a more collaborative approach by making effective use of skills, knowledge and resources. These discussions led to the creation and incorporation of the British Columbia Association of Professionals with Disabilities.

The British Columbia Association of Professionals with Disabilities is not a chapter of the Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities, but is a separate, autonomous, affiliate society. The relationship it has with the Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities is one of mutual support and collaboration, shared principles and values, and actively promoting social responsibility within and outside the organisations.

The British Columbia Association of Professionals with Disabilities is based on a consumer controlled model and is dedicated to social responsibility, collaboration, innovation, diversity, and inclusion.

As It Stands Now

So far, there has been little in the way of Canadian statistics on how professionals with disabilities are specifically doing after graduation or whenever they acquired a disability as a professional.

In Canada, according to the Statistics Canada's 2001 Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS - "Disability in Canada: A 2001 Profile"), it is stated that for the core working-age adults with disabilities, age 25-54, the employment (participation) rate was at its peak with just over 51% employed compared to just over 82% for those without disabilities (a 31% difference). For older workers with disabilities, age 55-64, it is said to have been just over 27% employed compared to just over 56% for those without disabilities (a 28% difference). For youth, age 15-24, it is said to have been almost 47% employed compared to almost 57% for those without disabilities (a 10% difference). For all these age groups put together (i.e. 15-64), the employment rate for people with disabilities was almost 44% compared to just over 78% for those without disabilities (a 34% difference).

Also according to PALS, in British Columbia, the employment rate for 15-64 year olds with disabilities stood at just over 44% compared to 72% of persons without disabilities in that age range (a 28% difference). For 25-54 year olds, it was just over 50% compared to almost 81% of their non-disabled counterparts (a 31% difference). For 55-64 year olds, it was just over 30% compared to just over 58% of their non-disabled counterparts (a 28% difference). For youth, age 15-24, it was just over 45% compared to just over 52% of their non-disabled counterparts (a 7% difference).

Another interesting possible employment rate indicator comes from the Canadian Council on Social Development. If we assume that professionals for the most part have higher education, according to the Council, higher education benefits people with disabilities in the labour market, but not as much as it does for people without disabilities. For example, in 1998, it found that 51.8% of men and 41.1% of women with disabilities who were post-secondary graduates were employed all that year compared to 82% and 73% of their respective non-disabled counterparts (about a respective 30% and 32% difference). When we do a cursory comparison of these numbers to the ones above from the 2001 PALS survey, we found that there was little difference in the employment rate of those people with disabilities who were post-secondary graduates compared to people with disabilities in general and their non-disabled counterparts. Such information echoes what we all know - that is having post-secondary education for people with disabilities is not the panacea to eliminating the barriers to their full participation in employment even though education helps to: garner and expand their employment opportunities (or unemployment/underemployment opportunities as some might say) and income earning prospects; provide them with the in-demand skills for today's jobs (and the capacity necessary to keep their talents current, transferable, and responsive to the skills demand of our rapidly changing economy); being able to better themselves and their quality of life; and further enhance their independence and influence. The Council also made a similar finding by commenting that while education is important for people with disabilities in the labour market, they are also encountering other labour market barriers.

It is also interesting to note that during 1998, the Council found that 30.3% of men and 40% of women with disabilities who were post-secondary graduates were not in the labour force at all that year compared to 3.1% and 10.3% of their respective non-disabled counterparts (about a respective 27% and 30% difference).

For more information, please go to
www.ccsd.ca/drip/research/dis2.htm

[The Canadian Council on Social Development prepared the above statistics by using Statistics Canada's Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (masterfile)].

The unemployment rate is another matter. It is difficult to measure. In Canada, some say that the real unemployment rate for people with disabilities could be at least 50% (and that excludes those who are underemployed which could bring the cumulative rates up much higher), if you take into account other factors that are hard if not impossible to measure like those people with disabilities who may be considered as being identified as the "hidden unemployed".

Many people with disabilities who long to work are no longer part of the official systems to collect statistics on unemployment rates, and even some of these systems have changed how they measure making it more difficult to make longitudinal comparisons. The percentage of people who collect employment insurance is an often-cited official measure of who is unemployed. Frequently, persons with disabilities find themselves in jobs that are too part time and/or too short term to be able to contribute enough hours to be eligible for employment insurance so they are left out in this count. Then there are people with disabilities who have given up looking for work out of despair of not being able to find anything. The amount of continual rejection and roadblocks one receives when looking for work, and the toll it takes on one emotionally, physically, socially, and financially when doing so becomes too great especially when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel and/or this process has been going on for a very long time. Others look for work sporadically hoping things have changed, while many cannot afford to look for work, be employed, or look like they are employable out of fear of losing vital disability supports if they earn any income or show that they are employable (even if it is just volunteering but no one is actually hiring them). Countless people with disabilities are just barely scrimping by on other often-limited supports that are not tied to any official body that could record that they are seeking employment. Many, for example, who want full time employment can only get part-time and/or short-term employment yet both are considered an employment stat. Short-term employment is especially deceiving because the person with the disability could be relegated to unemployment the rest of the year. Often they have long periods of unemployment. The rate of underemployment and sporadic employment is higher for people with disabilities than the general populous. As such, sustainable employment is a major issue amongst people with disabilities.

Men with disabilities are more likely to be employed than women and other marginalised groups with disabilities (even though it is a sad state of affairs for all groups concerned). Furthermore, the difficulty in securing and sustaining employment is greater for those who have certain types of disabilities (i.e.: including real or perceived severity of a disability, and employers'/public unease with a disability type or disfigurement). When and how one acquired a disability also has an impact on the career success of a professional with a disability. Also, not every person with a disability is treated equally in regards to employment and support issues. (This is discussed further in the sections titled, Financial Disincentives to and in Employment and Not Every Person with a Disability is Treated Equally in Terms of Income and Supports)

Unfortunately, many professionals with disabilities who can and want to work must face lives that bring them lack of sustainable livelihoods because of subsistence living incomes, poverty, unemployment, short-term employment (or contract work), intermittent employment, and/or part time employment (for those who wanted full time). Many find themselves disconnected or precariously connected to the workforce and face social, professional, and economic isolation. Countless professionals with disabilities have been living like this for decades.


I've Not Changed

"As a rehabilitation and employment counsellor for people with disabilities, I thought I understood how much pain and suffering my clients with disabilities had to face. That was until I lost my sight. I now understand firsthand how my world as a person with a disability more often than not means that social and professional interactions become an excuse to exclude me. I was once considered an expert and leader in my profession but that went away after losing my sight. Now my personal and professional identity and even my faculties are continually being questioned. I have not changed, but the world around me certainly has by the way it responds and reacts to me. I have simply been reassigned to the margins of society by people who feel more comfortable with keeping people with disabilities out of sight, out of mind, and out of work."


Given this reality then, is it any wonder why many people will not disclose their disabilities (if they are able to hide them) or health/medical conditions to current and potential employers, colleagues, coworkers, and clients out of fear that it could damage their careers. If they do disclose, they could risk having a life of instability, uncertainty, poverty, isolation, and increased health problems (i.e. as a result of losing social, professional, and/or economic supports).

Even for working professionals with disabilities, there are still many work and quality of life issues that are not being adequately addressed. Poor or uncertain prospects, job retention concerns, low or unstable incomes, barriers to career development and advancement, training and promotion concerns, workplace issues, transportation, housing, disability supports, health care concerns, and planning for the present and future can still be problematic.

Furthermore, we live in a society where having a career is a major factor in defining who we are, how we live, and to a significant degree, how others see us.

Work impacts the ability of professionals with disabilities to have a good life, partake in life opportunities, take risks to independence, and take part in such critical aspects of life as: the ability to afford to "move out" and have a place of one's own; the choice to remain single, enter into a relationship, get married, and/or have children; the ability to live a health conscious lifestyle; the ability to socialise; the access to home ownership, transportation, and health care; the pursuit of advanced education and career development/opportunities; the planning for retirement; and the pursuit of active community involvement.

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Some of Our Beliefs…

Attitudinal Barriers towards Professionals with Disabilities

Stereotypes Affecting Professionals with Disabilities

Practice Mutual Obligation

The Empowerment Disempowerment Challenge

Professionals with Disabilities Are "Canaries in the Mine"

Respect, Acceptance, and Inclusion

 

Attitudinal Barriers towards Professionals with Disabilities


What Will People Say

"After reading on the Internet about a national organisation's training and hiring initiatives for people with disabilities, I visited their Vancouver office and found posters, pamphlets, and people promoting the initiatives. After that, I visited their Victoria office only to find that such information was absent. I asked why and was told that it was because the local staff disapproved of the initiatives to support and hire people with disabilities, and they were getting upset, so they took them down (and basically said they would not comply with the initiatives). "


Accumulatively, the attitudinal barriers of indifference, misconceptions, discomfort, ignorance, and prejudice that many relevant stakeholders (such as employers, co-workers, service providers, government, educators, and professional associations) have towards professionals with disabilities may be their greatest barriers to finding sustainable and rewarding livelihoods.

Fear is a major theme in this attitudinal barrier mixture. It can range from fearing to say or do the wrong thing around people with disabilities, to how others will cope in having a workplace colleague with a disability, and to fear of being reminded of one's own mortality and vulnerability of becoming disabled when being around people with disabilities. Unfortunately, how many people handle such fear is to avoid being around people with disabilities.

There is even some backlash against people with disabilities. A few people are under the mistaken impression that people with disabilities are being given unfair advantages and special treatment in the workplace and in acquiring employment. Some assume that people with disabilities are already well "taken care" of and want for nothing and should not be asking for so much nor vie for jobs that people without disabilities want. Simply put, they believe that people with disabilities should just accept their lot in life, or if they do want to compete for jobs or keep jobs, they should not be given any type of accommodation, as that is a form of "special treatment".

Some of these detractors even wrongfully assume workplace accommodation and other disability supports means that people with disabilities are getting easier work requirements. In some cases, a few of these critics have the misconception that such supports indicate a diminished mental capacity and an increased dependency on the part of the person with a disability. They may even believe that such supports may imply that the person with a disability has other impairments that could negatively affect their other senses, character, and ability (however, a person with a disability does not need to have disability supports for some people to believe this anyway.).

With high unemployment/underemployment, great numbers of unsupported and under supported disability related concerns, widespread poverty, and generally a lower quality of life for most people with disabilities, these facts will tell you that most are not living well, nor are they reaping the benefits of improved employability because more of them are skilled and educated. All that people with disabilities want is to have an equal opportunity and a level playing field to participate in employment as well as to have full acceptance and appreciation of their skills, knowledge, and abilities in the mainstream workforce. Furthermore, if there is a need for accommodation, it is not special treatment. It supports people with disabilities to meet the same job standards and expectations as other co-workers, as it reduces the barriers to employment entry and full workforce participation.

To sum it up, as long as all these attitudinal barriers persist, relevant stakeholders can make all the disability accommodations needed in the work and community environment, but if the workplace or community culture and ethics do not accept people with disabilities, no accommodations in the world will make a difference.

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Stereotypes Affecting Professionals with Disabilities


Loose Lips

"It's interesting to have a sometimes unnoticeable disability, as people's true colours are often revealed. I have sat at meetings where visibly able-bodied people would make jokes and pejorative assumptions about people with disabilities while assuming that I was able-bodied. At times, I can't resist countering their assumptions or their joking, but I quite like the technique when I begin talking and add my hands to communicate often on some other subject. One of my hands is withered and atrophied. I make sure the comments participants see that, as I pleasantly look at each of them and watch them want to eat their words and hide. "


A professional with a disability still portrays an atypical role for countless people and it clashes with many people's expectations of what a professional should look like. A professional means being seen as a decision maker, leader, specialist, expert, advisor, and/or manager. Many people are still not use to having people with disabilities being in such positions. There is still a misconception that they are dependent rather than independent, weak rather than strong, and that they are followers rather than leaders.

As long as others believe (or exploit the concept) that people with disabilities are burdens, inferior, helpless, tragic figures, should be pitied, and/or cannot care for themselves, those beliefs will continue to elicit doubt in the competencies of people with disabilities from others. As a result, it will make it that much harder for people with disabilities to secure and sustain employment that is commensurate with their skills, knowledge, and abilities.


What's the Name of the Game

"I was in a team project with other professionals who were all relatively new to each other. We had to decide who would be the team leader. One other person and I wanted to hold that position. Under the veil of concern and supposed understanding, the other team member vying for the position announced "that it was too bad that you are unable to take on leadership responsibilities since you have become visually impaired, and it would be too difficult for you... Therefore, someone has to take the lead, so I will take on the responsibility, because no one else has the experience ... except you." The others believed him."


After all, if so many people wrongfully assume that people with disabilities cannot care for themselves, it will be harder for them to believe that people with disabilities are capable of taking care of others and carrying through on responsibilities. This is part of the reason why there is such high unemployment amongst people with disabilities as such attitudes are allowed to prevail.

Furthermore, at the other end of the spectrum, being seen as remarkable, courageous, triumphant, and inspirational (even for the most mundane things) are also damaging beliefs that many people have of people with disabilities in general. They fuel the stereotypes that people with disabilities are "different" and "special" from the rest of the population and that anything that they do is to be seen as "out of the ordinary". Furthermore, contrary to what many people may believe, people with disabilities do not go out to conquer life. Like everyone else, they simply go out to live one. Even the wrongful belief of the "super disabled person" character/label/stereotype does not encourage the acceptance of diversity amongst all people, as it too implies being "different" and "special" from the rest of the population and even amongst many people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are no different from people without disabilities. They are just ordinary people. Most will not feel anymore innately inclined than people without disabilities to become such figures as accomplished world pianists and entertainers, daredevil mountain climbers and skiers, elite athletes, Nobel Peace Prize winners, revered leaders in science, or well-known sages.


Extremes

People with disabilities are still portrayed in many fund raisers as stereotypes of polar extremes - the "super disabled person" or the "charity case", as they are very emotive visuals and stories used to open people's wallets. Yet, these very models are damaging for anyone with a disability who wants to gain credibility, respect, acceptance, and full participation in work and the community because of such reinforced stereotypes.


Yet, when talking about success, inspiration, exceptional, courage, and willpower, this group of people with disabilities (many of whom fall under the "hero worship" following) seem to be more profiled in the mass media than others with disabilities whose: lives may not be high profile, sell stories, and/or provide a publicly appealing image; and/or accomplishments may be more low key, subtle, selfless, challenging, and important. As many high profile people with disabilities will concur, this latter group of people with disabilities do not often get (or do not want to get) the credit and recognition that they deserve even when they may have a more profound positive affect on what they did in their lives (and others) and/or on current and future people with disabilities and society in general. Inspiring (in the truest sense of the word), achieving, and succeeding should not be measured by how big, larger than life, or well-known one is, but for many people with disabilities that may be the only "role models" they see for "successful" and "inspiring" people with disabilities.

 


The Halo Effect

"Most of my employment interviewers lately have told me that they were related to people or had friends who had disabilities when they found out earlier that I was disabled (or took a very good guess that I was by reading in between the lines of my application beforehand). They also told me that these people were all inspirational. I have heard that line so often that I sometimes wonder why we have not all been made into living saints. All kidding aside, I just had to smile back at them when I heard this. However, let us be fair, I know that these employers were nervous when interviewing me. Dealing with disability and the employment issue firsthand is something relatively new to most of them. There is a learning curve here as there would be for anyone else who is entering an unfamiliar culture or environment. I saw by their words and actions that their experience with people with disabilities had been positive and that they were seriously considering me as an applicant. They were not just paying lip service. At least they were open enough to interview me when others were not. They may have said the wrong thing, but they had the right heart. However, I do not like having to pay the price of being poor and unemployed for long periods while waiting for more employers to warm up to hiring people with disabilities."


Furthermore, stories that appeal to the public's sentimentality of people with disabilities overcoming the odds and doing "astonishing things" to make the public feel good (and often at the expense of marginalising people with disabilities even further) more often than not also obscure the realities people with disabilities face.

For example, a feature about a person who became a lawyer while being blind, and then a successful partner in a respected law firm is an important story, if it is presented in the right way, does not gloss over the disability related barriers to getting to where they are, and does not pander to sentimentality, stereotypes, sappiness, "feel good" sound bytes, and portraying the professional as an "iconic superhuman character" rather than as a real person that people can relate to. It is important for the public to see the capabilities of people with disabilities and for other people with disabilities to see their career options and professionals with disabilities doing them as well as learning what these professionals had to do and what barriers they had to face in order to get to where they are today.

Such positive stories must also be balanced with ones about what many professionals with disabilities still face. So many are still struggling for their basic rights, equal access to opportunities in employment, and wanting a sustainable livelihood. The public needs to have greater awareness in how they can modify their attitudes and actions in a more positive and healthy way in how they relate to and think of people with disabilities.

 

Back to Some of Our Beliefs

 

Practice Mutual Obligation


The Song That Never Ends

"People can say and do the most insulting things to professionals with disabilities. The following is only a taste of what I have personally experienced. In an employment interview I was asked by a manager, "Will you die?" Once an employment equity officer told me over the phone that if I bathed and wore neat, clean clothes, that this would improve my job prospects. This person never met me before. One employer wanted to hire me for a few weeks so that he could win a federal government contract that stipulated that he must have disabled employees and then lay me off after winning the contract. Another time, I was met by about a dozen other professionals with disabilities waiting to be interviewed for the same position. This is when we all discovered it was a situation to meet a quota for interviewing people with disabilities. Some of us never even applied to the position and our skill set in no way matched the position's requirements. On another occasion, an interviewer felt that I did not have enough "energy" to do the same job I had successfully done elsewhere. Another time, a human resource manager, who did not know my history, told me almost immediately upon meeting me that I use my disability as a crutch in life and that it did not affect my employment situation and opportunity anywhere and was a non-issue. If I am continuing to experience such reactions, since when did having a disability stop becoming a non-issue and not affect my employment situation and opportunity ANYWHERE?"


The British Columbia Association of Professionals with Disabilities believes in mutual obligation and support. That is, stakeholders (such as employers, coworkers, service providers, government, educators, and professional associations) affecting a professional with a disability's career must be actively committed, supportive, and accountable to the career success of a professional with a disability as is the professional with the disability is to them. A professional with a disability's ability to succeed cannot just be solely based on their skill, willpower, and having the right, positive attitude, but also being in an environment that is truly supportive, inclusive, and accepting of them.

Back to Some of Our Beliefs

The Empowerment Disempowerment Challenge

In the disability movement, there is much talk about empowering the person with a disability. The British Columbia Association of Professionals with Disabilities recognises the importance of that, but we are also well aware that many professionals with disabilities are already empowered, and the problems facing them more so are the result of being disempowered at the same time - such as from infrastructure and employment related barriers and relevant stakeholders' damaging attitudes and expectations. As a result, the emotional response to empowerment and disempowerment are continually at odds with one another.

 

Back to Some of Our Beliefs

 

 

Professionals with Disabilities Are "Canaries in the Mine"

Society is judged by how well it treats people on the margins of society. The professional with a disability is a "canary in the mine" on how well society treats people with disabilities. If professionals with disabilities in general are still at the receiving end of being ignored, not taken seriously, dismissed, and discriminated against like so many other people with disabilities despite their education, skills, abilities, experience, career success, or status, what does that say about how far British Columbians with disabilities have been truly accepted and included?

Back to Some of Our Beliefs

Respect, Acceptance, and Inclusion

As is true for all people with disabilities, total respect for, and acceptance and inclusion of all professionals with disabilities is something that society, as a whole, must work on together.


A Calling

"An employer was simply bubbling over in enthusiasm by how many persons who used wheelchairs wanted to work in her call centre office. She told me that she felt it was something THEY ALL had a predilection and career desire for and she was going to start a hiring campaign to get more people who use wheelchairs to answer phones but for no other opportunities. As a person with a disability who use to answer over 400 calls a day, I never saw it as a calling but as a way to pay the bills and my way through university."


There cannot be flavour of the week disabilities in regards to which people with disabilities should be supported in employment opportunities and which ones are good for "optics" in employment. All people with disabilities are important.

The only thing that separates a professional with a disability from one without is the disability itself.

Professionals with disabilities have the same ambitions and aspirations as any other professional. They too want to reach their potential. They are also just as likely to want positions that are rewarding and challenging as well as desire career development and advancement opportunities.

Issues affecting professionals with disabilities are about equality and social justice. Equal rights, access, and opportunities are as important to disability as they are to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and age. Furthermore, providing "access" (in all its realms of interpretation) for professionals with disabilities cannot come about as token gestures of generosity, but be provided as a matter of course, a moral expectation, that accepts them as full and contributing members of society. They cannot be treated like second-class citizens.

Finally, it is so important that the issues affecting professionals with disabilities be addressed and resolved. These issues cannot be ignored nor can they receive "it is not my problem" mentality, as disability is the club that anyone at anytime can join, and most people will become members at some point in their lives.

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It's Only a Paper Moon

"In my early 20's, I was a poster girl for inspiration.

Armed with a new supposedly, "in-demand" practical and marketable business degree, my adage to other people with disabilities was just be positive and you too will get a job.

I grew up with a physical disability and with others' attitudinal barriers towards accepting my disability and abilities. Therefore, I knew that it would probably not be smooth sailing in securing employment. However, I was young, full of vim and vigour, and psychologically stoked up on people telling me how great I was and that I would have a great career. I also felt very confident in myself, and my abilities and accomplishments. I was breaking down disability related barriers and stereotypes all the time and had let no one stop me from pursuing my hopes and dreams. Now with a degree, I thought I had this ticket to financial and personal freedom and independence. Little did I know that the employment barriers (and its effects) would be one of my life's greatest hardships and emotional upsets where I would continually face rejection from others and uncertainty regarding my future. It would affect almost every aspect of my life.

During this period, I did plenty of volunteering and accepted wage subsidies just to "get my foot in the door" and earn some money - besides I was young and needed the experience, and that was what one did, I thought. Even after receiving my degree, I was continuously seizing every opportunity to advance my education and taking additional courses and training that would supposedly make me "more marketable" and give me that edge over my competitors. I also knew that I had to do this, because as a person with a disability, I had to be overqualified for many positions that I was applying to just so some employers might interview me. My first job and introduction to post-degree employment was part of a youth hiring initiative, and the moment the employer met me, he said, "Oh you have a disability. We can get a wage subsidy for you, and then we will have more money."

Meanwhile, despite what was not going on in my career, I needed to have more fun and balance in my life and something to look forward to. I took up downhill skiing and was having a great time, and found a great opportunity to demonstrate my career skills there.

The media interviewed me several times regarding my participation in and promotion of disabled skiing. I was referred to as being courageous, happy, funny, inspiring, and triumphant despite not knowing me that well. Skiing was "cool and uplifting" and not controversial. It heavily relied on image, and when paired up with a sporty, fresh faced, and "inspirational" person with a disability who had a sunny disposition, it made good copy, as it was a "feel good" human-interest story. I knew back then that those in the disability movement had to fight just to get any coverage on the really important and relevant disability issues like injustice, poverty, unemployment, housing, education, transportation, health, access, and discrimination, whereas I, more often than not, just had to say "skiing", "fun", and "recreation", and I received coverage.

As years passed, my former classmates were getting the real jobs, promotions, and moving on with their lives, and I was not despite having as much if not more skills and experience. In fact, I was still being told that I needed more experience which was a plausible thing to say to someone still under 30 (or to anyone who was naïve). However, I began to realise that for many employers, that was their safer way to reject me when I knew that they were hiring my peers without disabilities who did not have the experience or the requisite skills for the job. (As an aside, once I had hit my mid 30's, it seemed there was a overnight change in the type of rejection line I was receiving - one day I had "not enough experience" and the next day I had "too much experience and would be unchallenged by the job.")

Even with my intense job search efforts (including using supposedly effective job search strategies and inventing a few of my own) and not limiting myself to certain industry sectors and positions, I was still hardly getting any real job interviews. When I did get interviews, some employers had commented that they thought I had a disability because of where I had worked. Some employers even viewed my volunteer work experience as not being "real work" even though it was the only way that I was going to get experience at that time. I found that about 90% of the time, I was interviewed by organisations who were suppose to be practicing employment equity or had received a wage subsidy to hire an "employment disadvantaged" person. I was only getting short-term, low paying wage subsidy positions and no offers of real jobs for real pay. [I had 4 wage subsidy positions. All the organisations that hire me under subsidy had a history of not keeping people on after the subsidy had ended. Some had elements of being "make work" positions, and/or exploitive of me and the subsidy (free or cheap labour), which, of course, did not make me feel very good. I felt demoralized, and at times, very much used. Some employers knew they were getting a very good deal in hiring me under these programs, as I knew what my market value was worth in applying my talents. If I were not being marginalized, my market worth would be much higher than what I was actually being paid.]

Something was wrong. Having an excellent résumé, skill set, ability, attitude, initiative, work ethic, and doing well in interviews, and being personable, talented, and having a great reputation of being able to work well with others was still not good enough. Furthermore, when some interviewers would straight out pass wrongful judgement on how my disability affected my ability to do the job, I knew the espoused values of hiring on merit, skills, knowledge, and ability had probably taken a permanent leave from many employers.

One cannot live on being seen as brave, inspiring, good humoured, and triumphant when all one is being thrown are crumbs. Many people are led to believe that things are fine for people with disabilities when it hides or glosses over the true realities facing them. Furthermore, no hollow words of praise or paying for special disability recognition and inclusion events will do, if real active commitment to the inclusion and support of people with disabilities in employment is absent. Getting the keys to the car seems meaningless, if no one will allow you to drive."


 

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This page was last updated on Thursday, January 15, 2015

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