Friday, November 5, 2010

Physical & mental disabilities v.s. work opportunities

         I remember when I was about 8 years old, a man who couldn't walk came to our house to fix my dad's computer. I was amazed by this guy as he could drive his van even though he didn't have use of his legs. Before he left that day, I watched him from the kitchen window as he was lifted into his van with a wheelchair transporter. At the time I didn't realize the perseverance and courage this man had. Reading the article, Barriers to employment as experienced by disabled people, gave me a new perspective of the challenges people with disabilities face towards employment. I was surprised to read that many people with disabilities are not even considered for interviews.

        The article, discusses the challenges that people with physical and mental disabilities face, and also their personal opinions about the difficulties faced in regards to employment. As quoted by one who was interviewed: “I guess the biggest thing is, when I go to the interview I don't usually let the employer know that I'm in a chair. 'Cause I find that if I do, it might scare them off, or it might give them a reason to say, 'don't bother coming in'. I did experience that with one person. … I had asked the person whether the workplace was wheelchair accessible. And they said that they would get back to me and they never did” (Shier, M., Graham, J. & Jones, M., 2009, p. 66-67). There are many other similar stories in the article that testify that people with disabilities are oftentimes not even given a chance to be considered for jobs, even when they have the education and requirements necessary.  Oftentimes when they do have a job, they have more chances of employee dismissal.  One example of job dismissal is of a man who had been fired after working at an office supplies store for 25 years (15 of which he had been managing), once his employer found out he was illiterate.  Providing education for employers and companies was a common response in the article by those who participated in the interviews, to providing a solution to the discrimination people with disabilities face in the work industry.

        In Shier, M., Graham, J. & Jones, M., many respondents, especially  those with mental-health related disabilities, identified much difficulty in job security, based on the symptoms of their disability.  Labeling in the workplace is also identified as an issue in the article.  Oftentimes the person with a disability is judged and stereotyped for his/her disability. Other barriers identified by respondents are inadequate transportation, lack of support, self-esteem issues, past influences, personal care, and disability.

        Shier, M., Graham, J. & Jones, M. acknowledge that Canada, as well as other countries have tried to decrease welfare dependency by increasing incentives for people to work. "In their efforts to increase labour market participation, contemporary welfare states have frequently emphasized financial incentives, active job searching, and participation in labour market programmes" (Shier, M., Graham, J. & Jones, M., 2009, p.64).   The article states that many shifts have been influenced by debates about economic efficiency towards the inability of sustaining social service programming. “Disabled people in Canada remain under-represented in the Canadian labour market, even though policy and programming is present to increase participation” (Shier, M., Graham, J. & Jones, M., 2009, p.64).   

        “Disabled people live with ongoing trauma, arising from chronic experiences of injustice, exclusion and prejudice. The reality of this trauma, however, is often ideologically deflected, obscured, offset or disguised, whilst simultaneously overlaid with projected, culturally condensed 'disability meanings” (Watermeyer, B., 2009). The article, Claiming loss in disability, mentioned that empirical studies show evidence that many people with disabilities do not see their disability as a loss, but as an enrichment to their life. Who is anyone to judge or devalue the meaning and potential of people with disabilities? In the Mullaly textbook, it suggests that marginalization is probably the most dangerous form of oppression since it cuts off entire groups of people from meaningful and beneficial participation in society (p. 266). I believe there are so many opportunities to see the beauty and potential in all people, and physical and mental disabilities should not be a preventative to do so.

Shier, Michael, Graham, John R., & Jones, Marion E. (2009) Barriers to employment as experienced by disabled people: a qualitative analysis in Calgary and Regina, Canada. Disability & Society. Vol 24, Iss 1, 63-75. DOI: 10.1080/09687590802535485

Watermeyer, Brian (2009). Claiming loss in disability. Disability & Society. Vol 24, Iss 1, 91-102. DOI: 10.1080/09687590802535717

Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Sarah H


  1. Sorry for the 2 different spacings in my writing. For some reason, it shows up this way even though it's all the same setting.

  2. It’s really a disgrace that the disabled people have so much stigma held against them in the workplace. I thought employers weren’t suppose to discriminate based on gender, race, sexuality, health, etc, but yet they still do. People should put themselves in other people shoes and realize how difficult it would be to be in the position of a disabled person.


  3. I think that often we don't realize how hard it is to be in any shoes other than our own. In minimum wage jobs especially it would be difficult to get a job with a physical disability. I work at a fast food restaurant, and I find that each shift requires a fair amount of lifting, running, and carrying. Also, most of our supplies are stacked up on high shelves. So not only is it more difficult for someone with a physical disability to get a minimum wage job, the job itself is not designed to be easy.

    - Megan Rempel

  4. My group is also doing the theme of physical disabilities and through this whole blogging assignment I've learnt so much about how difficult it is for physically disabled people in today’s society. It's actually really sad how unequal and at times unrecognized these people are. To hear that someone who has a physical disability is scared to tell a future employer they have a disability, and to then be rejected for it is awful. Many people today feel like people who are physically disabled may cause more problems in the workplace, or need extra care.

    It is very difficult for people to find work too as many jobs are not suitable for people who are facing a disability. This is a big reason why social workers find many physically disabled people in need of social welfare assistance as it is more difficult for them to get and maintain a job based on the job requirements.

    You are absolutely right on the point that every person deserves to be treated equally, regardless if they have a disability or not, everyone has something to offer.

    -Jessica VL

  5. Sarah,

    This is an exact example, as we discussed in class, of where equality of condition is more suitable than equal opportunity; however even with equality of condition there remains barriers for people with physical disabilities in the work force. It is rather disappointing that with the advancements we have had in every technology field, we are still overcome with uncertainty. Considering the fact that businesses have developed their accessibility for clients, patients, or buyers; Why not employees? It appears that society as a whole is uneducated about people with disabilities and many people either stop and stare, or pretend they do not exist. I wonder if employers will ever truly give those with physical disabilities equal treatment in the workplace or if this will become another contested issue due to other aspects. Discrimination is an obvious issue for people with physical disabilities and one question I would be interest to find out is: Are health benefits providers charging employers higher rates for participants with physical disabilities? Either way, something needs to be done to help these qualified individuals acquire the rightful employment that they deserve.

    -Darcie B.

  6. Hello Sarah, I agree that a disability should not affect anyone from a good quality of life or employment opportunities. There are so my barriers for individuals with disabilities trying to find work that can or will provide the supports and possible aids that are needed in these work environments. After seeing research myself and hearing you talk about the fact that a number of employers are not even opening their doors to individuals with disabilities is just outrageous! Those quotes you have about people experiencing this discrimination really bring to life how these situations happen all the time even though our society is supposed to provide equality. This goes to show how much we still need to work towards an equal society. Good post.

    Nicole G

  7. It is really touching to hear stories like you suggested of the disabled. I completely agree with you when you said the disabled may simply need support and should have equal opportunity in the work force. However because many places are not for example wheelchair accessible; in many cases makes the selection for jobs much more difficult to come across on top of the disability in itself.

    Autumn B.

  8. It would be great if individuals with a physical disability would always be treated at an equal, and they could have access to places they desire. Unfortunately, this is not always taken into consideration. I believe that many people who have a physical disability are viewed as individuals with a mental disability as well; even if that is not the case. People have to realize that a person with a physical disability and are in a wheelchair for example have the capability to do many things, with the right access. Although people have a physical disability is does not mean they do not have
    the capability do perform mental tasks, and they can be valuable to society as the rest.

    Ashley R.

  9. This is like how they hire the mentally disabled at lets say safeway and all they have them do is bring in the carts from sure with enough training they could perform similar jobs to any of us maybe with just a little altering.