As I sat and thought of all the topics that relate to me, there were so many things through my mind. Language and culture, family, the list goes on. Then it dawned on me, one of the things that has shaped my life in ways even I do not entirely understand. I was born with cerebral palsy, and while life is normal in most arenas, having this disability does have its affect, especially in the professional arena. In a general sense, people tend to judge sometimes unjustly, whether or not a disabled individual is capable of performing the duties of a particular job.
One such incident happened to me. It was a few years ago, and I was fresh out of high school and looking for extra cash while attending school at ITT Technical Institute in Ranch Cordova. I had applied for a job working for the childcare department at a local gym. I went in and filled out an application and within a week, I got a call back for an interview. I went in for the interview and everything seemingly went well, then I was told there was a standard test that all prospective employees must take. It was a test that covered questions on basic employee relations, math, and customer service. I thought all was well, I was later informed that majority of my answers were wrong, specifically those involving math.
How could that be right? I had just taken a trigonometry class and I did just fine, and here this person was telling me I could use basic math with decimals. Then it came. I asked, “Is that all?” Her subsequent reply left me a bit unnerved, “Well honestly, I don’t think that someone with your ability could do the job.”
Being the kind of person I am, as soon as the ordeal was over, I went outside and took out a calculator to review the math problems I supposedly got wrong, and guess what? My answers were correct.
In my experience and in talking with other close friends and acquaintances, it seems to be a common occurrence. I have met countless people in wheelchairs like myself, who choose to sit at home and collect SSI benefits. When I inquired as to why they had chosen this way of life, more often than not, I was met with the question, “Do you know how hard it is to find someone who’ll give you a job, or is willing to make simple adaptations so you could do the job?”
When thinking on this subject further, it has always struck me as odd that it is perfectly acceptable for a disabled person to be unemployed, while the rest of society is warned that if they don’t both seek and obtain employment, they’re considered a failure. I realize that double standards have always existed, but does that mean they should be accepted? I think this is symptomatic of a larger issue.
In my mind, this has always been a war of the haves versus the have-nots. Those in power will almost certainly abuse it regardless of how little power they have when compared to the grand scheme of things. Social stigmas are a very powerful force; they have the ability to either help, or severely hinder the winds of social change. The very nature of our capitalist society dictates that productivity is held in the utmost importance. The old adage, “Time is money!” illustrates this quite well.
The saying, “Money is power” is what often comes to mind when trying to sum up this issue. Our society idolizes three things: power, wealth, and prestige. If this continues to be a part of the “American Dream,” what hope do the disabled have if not given a decent opportunity?