Cultivating the Mind: Employment and Disability

By Stephanie Travers

One of the major issues faced by the suddenly disabled is employment. While it makes no sense for an individual with ample training and all of the same skills they had pre-injury to leave the work force, the task of returning to work or finding a new job or career path that would be better suited to such a drastic change in lifestyle can be daunting. When this is compounded with the health issues and need for intensive rehabilitation that are encountered early on in an injury, getting back to work can become much more difficult than putting your resume out there.

The past four years have been a trying time for just about everyone when it comes to employment. While many groups have been hit hard, the disabled are currently experiencing an unemployment rate of 16%, which is twice the national average. Another set of numbers, published by the Christian Science Monitor, state that as of June of this year, only 32% of the disabled population is working, while 80% desires to be. With companies scaling back, and the job market becoming increasingly competitive, it is more important than ever to make sure that people with disabilities have employment opportunities that not only provide self-worth and income, but also help stimulate the economy and bring new ideas and perspectives to the collective table.

In his blog, The Myth of Walking, Allen Rucker points out that we live in a world and market that is increasingly driven by brain power; physical brawn and ability is quickly becoming a relic of the past in the professional world. An interesting question to ask then is whether this will level the playing field between the physically disabled and the able-bodied when it comes to work, or will people’s fears and built-in uneasiness around disabilities continue to impede progress?

An important aspect of the Healing Center’s holistic approach to rehabilitation will be its Technology Center. We believe that one of the first hurdles towards independence–once the body is on its way to recovery–is having access to necessary assistive technology that can provide self-sufficiency both personally and professionally. Three decades of development in assistive technology has led to the current state of continuous-speech recognition solutions which were not available as recently as three or four years ago, and these technologies will just continue to improve. The Michael-Ryan Pattison Foundation is committed to creating an environment where people will be empowered to use their natural skills and abilities to reenter the work force and find the stability and independence that all individuals wish for.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It is a month set aside to consider the ways in which disabled individuals contribute to our country, and to speak out about the need for employment opportunities for everyone. On our blog in the past few months, we have featured several dynamic, motivated, successful individuals with active careers and lifestyles; these posts aren’t simply meant to inspire, but to demonstrate that regardless of their injuries, people living with SCIs and other forms of paralysis are fully capable of living exceptional lives. It is our mission as a foundation to make sure that every person with an injury will have access to the therapies, resources, and technology that will provide them with the building blocks to make that kind of life a reality. Please join us in recognizing National Disability Employment Awareness Month this October!

“People with disabilities must be woven into our work culture. Already, we benefit from the incredible array of talent they bring to our workplaces. But we must raise the bar, we must create the inexorable expectation that people with disabilities will contribute in every way to our economic successes. Only by nurturing this expectation and providing people with disabilities with unlimited employment opportunities, can we all benefit from their talents.” 

-Kathy Martinez, Department of Labor for Disability Employment Policy

Citation: Disabled World News (2009-08-22) – Disability Employment Awareness Month heightens awareness while recognizing contributions of Americans with disabilities to our workforce and society:

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