Sunday, January 18, 2009


Things are about to get more difficult for people with disabilities getting around. As reported in today's NY Times, fares for access-a-ride in New York may rise to $4-$5 a ride. It seems grossly unjust that people who are at a disadvantage in some many ways will pay more than their so-called able-bodied, employed brothers and sisters. One might argue that is unfair that PWD get a 'personal ride,' and this is a good argument, yet it is flawed. As I described before, one must order A-A-R 1-2 days in advance, pick-up time is not guaranteed and drop off time seems random. One would be better off taking a cab, if only they were accessible. 

Part of the issue, of course, is poverty. PWD are, without argument, the poorest of society. PWD have a 70% unemployment rate. If one is 'able' to work, one must overcome numerous prejudices in order to find a job. Unlike African Americans, there is no official Affirmative Action for people for disabilities. To my knowledge, there aren't many placement places either. Getting SSI or disability isn't easy either. Many people wait up to THREE YEARS in order to receive funds. SSI is for people who can't work at all, and like many welfare(s) it is a joke -- $900.  When I had SSI in my early twenties, I was given $600 a month. Supplemented with baby sitting and students loans, this was enough, but for most people it's beyond ridiculous.

Three years ago, I was pretty much forced out of my job with the New York City Dept of Education -- yea, another good teacher bites the dust! At this time, I was allotted about $2000 for SSDI. The difference between SSDI and SSI is that the former is for people who did work and 'became' disabled. 

I choose to work, when I can get it/do it. In this I forfeit my disability money. I have always wondered whether (morally) I should get that money because I am (mostly) 'able' to work. What is my moral obligation? Here is the problem, it is about 100 times more difficult for me to get a position than a so-called able-bodied person. This is even taking into consideration my lengthy publishing record, two Masters degrees, and seven years of teaching experience. The government sees SSDI as help for people who cannot work. And yet, aren't there two types on 'cannot work.' Here, many of us are dealing with physical and/or mental issues that disallow us to work. But, also we are dealing, more profoundly, with a society that 'disallows' us to work for you can't work if you can't get a job and you can't get a job if people judge you on how you move rather than your resume. 

The reason I've (usually) had a job is that I have such steel head persistence. For example, when I was excessed by the DOE, I sent my resume to about 50 schools. I also went door to door to many Manhattan high schools asking if there were openings. This was despite the fact that I was being paid anyway. I was glad that I was getting paid full salary for subbing, but I REALLY wanted my own class. Here, I got some interviews but no job. 

I can say, without a doubt, that the NYC Department of Education does not value teaches with disabilities in the same way that the university might. As a minority, I see my own 'limitations' as a plus, rather than a minus. As a PWD, I can teach different and tolerance and understanding as well as grammar and writing. Somehow, most folks don't see it this way -- or don't want to. They continue to see the body different as the the body weaker.  I have even had paranoid rumblings of dissatisfaction at United Cerebral Palsy from time to time because the staff often assumes that I am a client, not an employee -- I suppose this might be an easy mistake.

The exception for me has come in academia. At my current university, you will find teachers and students of all abilities and the campus gets my award for accessibility. I have been treated as a 'less than' by some students looking for excuses for their own bad grades, but luckily, my wonderful boss doesn't go for such nonsense.  We all know, however, that academia comes with its own contests and being a minority (and even more so, an unpopular minority) can only go so far.

I dive in periodically to blogs about people with disabilities, and I wish people would be more open, provide more of a framework for their daily existence. How many people have jobs (outside of Disability Studies) and how did they get them?

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