Being Disabled Means Being Excluded
Hint: It's about the 76% unemployment rate
One of the biggest nonsense factors about the way we're discussing the U.S. economy is well, everything, but in addition to that, the lack of granular discussion of what economy for whom. The so-called booming economy is 1) not how a lot of people feel and 2) has never once in U.S. history been true for people with disabilities.
We remain, decade after decade, the largest untapped workforce in America. The stats don't change much decade to decade on the employment rates and poverty levels for those with disabilities. A few points up or down year-to-year, with no sea change present. And, of course, with some technological and medical changes, the category of who is in the "disabled" basket extends to people with serious chronic health issues that impact, and often limit, their day-to-day lives.
Many of us have no legal recognition at all. That's because the laws are decades old, often scientifically out-of-date, and also, just batshit crazy. Every horror movie ever made contains fewer demons and less bloodshed than disability policy. Mostly your actual medical file will never count, and what does is whether you had a highly paid job with extensive benefits right before you became disabled, so that you are counted as a real person and can hire the proper team of attorneys for years on end to get the proper designation, which will be about as simple as learning the entirety of the American tax code would be. Bring a flow chart. I also hope you saved up a retirement account's worth of cash for the lawyers you'll need, so that you can get the legal right to have a conversation with H.R. about a different job or some workplace accommodations.
Granted, some people cannot work at all, and the question of any society seeking to actually meet the basic definition of "civilization" would be, "how do we care for them?". I think you'll find that's of little concern in the U.S. Too expensive, see. Equally unimportant is, "how do we tap the largest potential workforce we've always had but never acknowledged?". That would be people like me, told to fend for ourselves on the overly glorified "gig work" scam America has concocted in order to get out of paying anything toward employee health care and retirement benefits. See, people like myself with serious chronic health issues are also "too expensive" to have as employees, mostly because you're bitchy terrified prejudiced little shits, but supposedly because we're such a burden to every company that it's very important we never have a presence at any of them. You would go broke on employee contributions toward medical care and retirement, and my god, would we ever show up to type of a laptop? How many flexible workday concessions and expensive assistive technologies and special chairs would just break the bank? I mean, it's not like regular workers have a problem with how they are being compensated or what the conditions of employment are, because no one in America is striking coast-to-coast in multiple industries, right? Regular employees are fine with policies like no paid family leave and no pee breaks or lunch hours, so there are no problems here anyway with employment terms in America. I mean, hire one disabled person or anyone with a chronic medical issue they need to manage every day, and that could just destroy your average Fortune 500 company. Obviously.
And it is mostly the C-suite who are the biggest douches about this. While the U.S. government brews up a flow chart no one can follow, inventing terms no one can meet that reference every arcane definition possible while taking two to three doctors who you can't see anyway to vouch for you on forms that only generate more forms to fill out in order to still need the lawyers and then have them translate the reality: you never had a good job, and all of this is based on having a good job for decades or you get nothing-- so, you know, just that--the private sector is stuck in two modes: small businesses who can't afford anything and big businesses who pay so little they keep a lot of their employees at the poverty level, anyway. Ever tried retail work?
While I expect the government to do nothing but fight with each other about everything, the big-money big-box private sector could turn this around tomorrow if they wanted to. For decades they have not. Why do think it took an act of Congress to force people to install wheelchair ramps? If conscience is king, this country is a peasant. How little initiative can the private sector possibly demonstrate for decades on end, knowing the government will only and ever and always argue? If corporatizing everything is what you love, if the private sector is your default answer to all problems-- I mean, I am understanding you correctly, aren't I, America?-- it's astounding how little you've corporatized any employment for people with disabilities. I thought you were busy bitching and moaning about the lack of workers and that no one wants to work anymore? Maybe you've never taken a look at the millions of us who have always wanted to, and instead have always been told to shove it.
Granted, there are companies, organizations, and teams of people within the workforce who do differently because they are less scared, less cruel, and far more able to include. They can see the person, the skills, the work ethic beyond the particular disability or chronic health issue. But let's not pretend that's common. An unemployment rate that can't get below 70% is not a success. Not for me, not for your businesses, and not for America's economy. How long are you going to keep us out of work? Often enough, you are keeping us out of the medical and legal systems. If transportation and physical access had to be a matter of law, when does any other piece or part of this get to be? My guess would be never. What I know about America is its unwillingness to change, because that's where I live. In the twilight world of people who you wish you could forget about, who you wish didn't exist, who you openly celebrate the deaths of in global pandemics.
Every day is Halloween for me. My country wears a mask and comes knocking one more time, always demanding I treat it sweetly while attempting to trick me into putting on a mask myself and celebrate what they've already decided can never be mine. I'm just a prop to be frightened by at your Halloween party, some deformed, twisted skeleton to be stashed away in a closet and hauled out to scare kids with as the occasion demands. Whatever plastic graveyard you put me in as a seasonal tableau, it's somehow your grave I'm most interested in. Can I put you there, then celebrate about "clearing out the weak" and "just nature doing a little bit of natural selection"? I mean the weak in conscience and imagination; you meant the weak in body. The rejection of the bodies won't stop my mind, and I feel you've earned every tale from MY crypt. Happy freaking Halloween.
Don't act as though you'll miss us when we are all long gone, our lives wasted on you,
a cascade of what's gone wrong.
We are the disabled, we don't exist to you. Or we shouldn't, that much we know, too much a burden to see us through. But We. See. You.
You praised our makeshift graves as a virus swept on through, then denied the scavengers who came. They can also feed on you.
A country without conscience, all work without the pay.
You talk of opportunity as systems fall away.
You call us "good for nothing" then calculate the cost as we tie frayed strings together in the shroud of all the loss. A catacomb of cataclysm that we meet with cynicism, for nothing's ever different in the land that loves the lie.
What it wishes it could see in the mirror. What it denies.
With no way out but all ways down, we'll die down here together, in poverty, obscurity, vilified like ancient lepers.
Perhaps all we can use down here is your catastrophic fear, made into a weapon.
As if it couldn't work both ways to turn hell into heaven!
Perhaps there is a spell for you to magic you away, and seize what should have been for us, no matter what it takes.
The pox of policy upon you, the curse of country finally yours, as we dance through your ceilings and smash your bolted doors.
Beware the dead who crawl unnoticed, we notice. every. thing.
We've got the measure of your soul and equal wrath to bring.
If fire is the devil's tool, then quit the matches, wicked fools, for you are fooling no one,
and there is everything that's undone, and we'll see who makes it through.
With all of this, and for all that, who is it now who wears what hat?
And why, when you need us, would we. help. you?