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Voices: Bridget Allen

  • Posted on December 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

As I delve further into the issue of disability employment, focusing somewhat on the possibilities for better employment for people with neurological differences, it’s important to recognize that there should be a choice. Bridget Allen brings us that voice.

First, I want to clarify that my focus is on disability employment because there is a problem I see that I want to fix:

But I do not work. I am autistic, and being the autistic I am means I am real-world, social-model-disabled. I do not work because I cannot. There are a dozen hypothetical ‘what if...’ or ‘should be...’ scenarios in which I could hold down a job, but that is not my reality.

There are very few reasons that I can imagine that work should be impossible for someone who wants to work. If you want to work, but you’re incarcerated for criminal activity… If you want to work, but you’re comatose… If you want to work, but you need to spend your time rehabilitating from an injury, illness, or addiction… If you want to draw a payment, but don’t actually want to work… If you want to work, but aren’t willing to abide by the ethical standards of your profession… These are a few reasons why work might be genuinely impossible.

In a society as diverse, as wealthy, as technology capable as ours, there shouldn’t be such a thing as “too disabled to work” for someone who wants to work. Accommodations and innovations are sufficiently possible to give people the opportunity to work to support themselves, regardless of their disabilities.

This idealized possibility of work shouldn’t mean someone’s self-worth or social-worth should be defined by the work that they do (or don’t do, as the case may be) as indicated by this passage:

My childhood was infused with a popular feminist theme. I was taught that a Real Woman is financially independent. She doesn’t need a man be it a husband or larger entity (The Man) to support her basic needs or the needs of her offspring. A Real Woman knows children are an accessory to a career, not something one builds a life around. I regularly heard the words ‘housewife’ and ‘brood mare’ used interchangeably. I am loathe to believe this is real feminism, because empowerment that exists on the denigration and neglect of other’s needs empowers no one.

It certainly shouldn’t be a choice between acknowledging one’s need for disability-related assistance and raising one’s children without interference from CPS as indicated in this passage:

I started to apply for disability once, but every worker I spoke to asked the same question: If you are too disabled to work, how can you be a fit mother? I was told, repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that if I submitted an SSI application, a Child Protective Services investigation would be in my future.

It should simply be a choice:

If I could choose, I likely would stay home, but I don’t really have that choice. I’m too disabled for gainful employment, and it would be a slap in the face to too many people I respect to fake that.