Get a job…

Having a job, an occupation, a vocation even is a wonderful thing when it works out. It is true that being in gainful employment is a thing that can make a person’s world feel in balance, provide a sense of healthy self and provide the financial needs of support that a person and their family requires.

Surely this is true, and it’s wonderful, when you can get it that is.

But what about the contrast of that. There are many people who are not in a position like this. There are many reasons why this is so, bad luck, discrimination, lack of access, equity, disability, and injury are some of those reasons. What about those people. What about their lives being wonderful too? Is that even a possibility?

Of course it is. But, it is made difficult by the way society treats them.

And by them I include myself, that is my disclosure I guess, that I am in that position of not holding down a position of employment.

It’s a status thing…

Western society thrives on status and a key aspect of that is employment. Being in employment provides a status that is unattainable when one is not in employment. Not only that, but, society reinforces that lack of status to people in virtually every interaction they have as they negotiate their lives on a day-to-day basis.

Just about every form one is asked to complete requests employment information in some way.

Just about every time you meet a new person you are asked what you do for work.

Access to getting a job is enhanced when you already have a job.

The media, be it print, online or screen media regularly characterises those without employment as lazy freeloaders.

These are just a few examples of how this issue manifests on a day-to-day basis.

work wordsEven going to get a haircut is a situation when one is reminded of that lack of employment status. One sits on the chair and is almost guaranteed to be asked if they have the day off work.

It’s a constant reminder that you as a person without employment are of lessor importance and status than those who do.

And it’s complete bullshit.

There are jobs there for you if you really want to work they say. You just need to lower your expectations they say.

Again that’s bullshit.

Just want to contribute…

Of course there are some people who just don’t want to work. But the reality is that these people are few and far between.

What is true is that the vast majority of people want to work, want to complete meaningful tasks and contribute to the society they live in with positive contributions.

I count myself again as one of these people.

The real issue is, in my view, that gaining employment is not about the person’s ability to do the job but their ability to negotiate and continue to negotiate a social contract. And of course it also often not about what you know but who you know.

The harsh reality is that for disabled people to gain employment it is incredibly difficult to do so. No matter what the polices of the relevant government or overseeing bodies may be, the hard truth is that employers in general don’t want to give a disabled person a chance. Due to a preconception of the value of disabled people being less than of non-disabled people.

Disabled not unable…

Within the realms of my own disability, being autistic, the vast majority of us are not employed. This is a real tragedy. It’s a tragedy for the autistic individuals involved as well as to society in general. For the individuals involved it is a human cost of difficulty in providing for oneself, maintaining positive sense of self and all that goes with that. For the broader community it is a loss of the positive and important contributions and skills that are not realised.

Personally, holding a job is extremely difficult. Not because I am not a capable human being, but because I most often discover I am unable to successfully navigate the social contracts required.

I am an intelligent and articulate person. I hold multiple University Degrees. I am a qualified Primary School Teacher, I can build a website, develop a database, create a web application. I can most likely repair or diagnose a computer issue for you. Yet I can’t manage to hold a position for any length of time.

The longest I have ever held down a position is just over 2 years. I think the reason this was possible was that my superior worked remotely.

Things need to change. I along with many other autistic people and disabled people in general have a lot to offer the world.

I don’t particularly want anything special. I do want some accommodations to make work an easier thing to manage, but I don’t want to be given a free ride or anything like that. Having these accommodations would mean really that my employer had taken the time to understand that there are things that I find easy and things that I find hard. They would understand that and work with me for the mutual benefit of a happy productive employee and more efficient, productive and profitable business.

It’s positive to see some employers learning to see the benefit autistic staff can bring to an

terms of employment

Employment contract

organisation. Specialisterne comes to mind as a group seeking to provide work options for autistic individuals. Additionally the Computer company SAP have a goal of a certain percentage of workers being autistic.

The big issue is that these initiatives are but a drop in the ocean, and that the massive issue of underemployment for disabled people is about far more than just autistic individuals.

For me having to work with people in group situations and teams is very difficult and fraught with danger of me becoming overwhelmed and unproductive.

I could of course work  for myself. I have the skills to do so, of course this too is tenuous as self-management and executive function issues come into play.

In the end, I and I imagine most disabled people, just wan a fair go, a fair go to contribute to the society we inhabit and to provide for ourselves and our families.