Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Accessible Rat Race


#moreaccessible







The Accessible Rat Race

In my last few years of high school in a small town, I kept trying to enrol in art courses, but I was told by my guidance teacher that I couldn't do it because if I wasn't holding the art tools myself I wasn't really doing the work and that he'd give me an exclusion on art credits. This was to become very important to me later on. So when I moved to Toronto, I enrolled in college but I only lasted through that first year because I couldn't decide what I wanted to do next, so I decided to take a break to figure out what I wanted to do. Little did I know that if you take a break as an individual with a disability, you lose the little bit of momentum you have to get back in the rat race. The one thing I realized is there aren't many entry level jobs that you can get as a physically disabled person who can use only one hand and cannot lift much, that are the kind of jobs that would provide enough stimulation to encourage me to get back in the race. And there really wasn't any college/career courses that really excited me to want to dive back into the academic world, because at the time, I hated essay writing. There is less incentive for me to have wanted to go back to school because I was starting to see my peers with disabilities graduating with degrees and still not being able to get a job. Some have found paid work, some have gone back to school, and some, like me, are keeping themselves busy volunteering.

I, as with many of my friends, have tried career placement programs with varying success. When I went in and said that I wanted to do something either in the arts, or in disability advocacy, they said, “We don't have a template for that.” and all the templates they had that they thought I would success in didn't appeal to me so the program just said that they wished me luck, and sent me on my way. I have observed with many of my friends the same frustrations; some of them have gone back to school with really high expectations and come out frustrated and some are even a little burnt out. And still, they have trouble getting jobs matching their degrees. The educational system is getting better at being inclusive, little by little, but the career and job world needs to get better; there are always exceptions to the rule. There are jobs that pop up for people with disabilities but they seem to be connected to grants and programs. When the grants and programs run out, the job disappears soon after. There aren't a lot of places that are trying to creatively and innovatively adjust the job to the person's unique abilities but the places that do reap great rewards.

Another barrier is how sticky the social assistance system can be, because if you find even part-time meaningful work, there is usually more paperwork and red tape that has to be filled out, and it can cause more grief than not being paid at all. As a person with a disability who likes to do more than sit around collecting my social assistance I do a lot of volunteering, and I have a long resume of interesting jobs to prove this. But because of my physical limitation, at some of these organizations, when staff openings come up, they aren't even open to the most qualified of us volunteers. Sometimes I feel like I'm a professional volunteer. Organizations may cite the barriers to hiring somebody with a disability is because of physical barriers when most of the time it is a cultural barrier. So for right now, I want everybody to stop and digest these ideas. I myself am going to join the rat race with my art and creativity that my high school said I didn't have, but I'm going to pace myself to avoid burnout.

#moreaccessible

arcohoon[at]gmail.com





-- ARC23 - http://arcnwsptr.blogspot.com --

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