Disabled and Unemployed? Take the First Step

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha Alvarez

We don’t need to read statistics to know that getting hired is one of the most difficult areas for people with physical disabilities. Let’s face it, we look different. No, seriously we do. In fact, some of us speak differently, hear differently, see differently, and do things differently. So how in the world can we slide into society unnoticed?

We can’t. I know. I am sure you thought I was going to sugar coat this experience so that you would pick up the want ads and jump at the chance to be a tax paying citizen. It’s not going to happen that way. I didn’t say it wouldn’t happen at all. It’s just not happening as easily as we see it in the movies when the person gets motivated to jump off the couch, go for an interview and land a great paying job.

But we have choices. We can stay home and lick our wounds, complain about the way society discriminates against us because we are not like them or we can count our blessings because we aren’t like them.

Reality is that we need to stand out. The problem is that we tend to stand out with our first impression. Sometimes, we don’t even get a chance to say hello before people think they have us figured out.

They think about all of the “reasonable accommodations” they will have to make for us. They think about the “sensitivity training” they will have to give to their employees so that they don’t gawk at us when we say “hi”. Yup, we talk!

So what can I say to you so that you will get up and get to work? The truth. That’s all I can give you. The reality is that more and more of us have to go out into the world. We need to walk around the neighborhood, shop at the local grocery store, and interact with the people in our community so that we become a “regular” person in their eyes. If they can see us as consumers and neighbors then soon we don’t become this novelty to look at on the streets.

How will that get you a job? Very simple. It won’t. But it will build a network of people who will see you in a different light; a better light. Are you a positive person when you interact with others? Do you moan about how terrible life is? Are you complaining about all the things you can not do? Be honest with yourself.

This isn’t just a disabled issue this is a human issue. Able, disabled, female, male, or whatever, our attitude sends messages so loud it could shatters windows faster than an OI bone fracturing in half!

This month take an inventory at yourself. Stop yourself when you hear “can’t” words come out of your mouth. I can’t walk but I don’t have to keep telling myself that. I already know it. However, I need to tell myself and those around me what I can do. Sooner or later they get the message and so will you.

Next month, find out if you are qualified to work anywhere for that matter.

Email us at nathasha@audacitymagazine.com and join the Online Forum to discuss employment issues with me and Audacity readers.