By Amy Grana
Hi everyone! Hope you’ve all had a fantastic week, as usual.
Today I’m going to be talking about the few organizations and companies that purposely single out disabled people (not necessarily in a negative way) and discuss whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, in my opinion.
I’ll start off by talking about my own experiences of inclusion when I was younger, and how I feel this impacted by social life, school life and personal life in the future.
I was always happy to be involved with most activities in school – but sports was something I could never enjoy as I felt so self conscious about my disability that I wouldn’t be able to join in as well as everybody else. This was of course due to low self-esteem… but what would really upset me was the people who tried to force me into joining in activities JUST because they wanted to look good for persuading the disabled girl to join in.
As I grew older I withdrew from activities more as I didn’t feel I could compete in the physical aspects of them as smoothly as everyone I was comparing myself to, but does that mean I should be respected any less… or even, secluded from society? Of course not!
I haven’t had a chance to work in the community as of yet, but the thought of being paid less because I have a disability is terrifying. Once I am well enough and able to work in the community, I would love the same respect, treatment and pay as everybody else… I’m pretty sure everyone wants this, disabled or not.
This may be hard for you to believe… but there are STILL places in the USA that pay people with disabilities a lower wage than everyone else doing the same job as them.
I know, it’s disgusting.
There is a documentary called Bottom Dollars that explores this subject and focuses on a few disabled people living in the USA doing their jobs, it closely follows their stories.
It’s awful to think that in the 21st century there is still a wage difference – originally, this ‘lower wage for people with disabilities’ was bought out to persuade employers to actually employ disabled people; the fact it’s still around is unbelievably discriminatory.
In 2016, nearly 250,000 people are legally paid less than the minimum wage, on average, less than $2 an hour.
“Bottom Dollars” is an hour long documentary that exposes the exploitation of people with disabilities through personal stories and expert interviews. It also presents clear employment alternatives with competitive wages and community inclusion.
The name of the places that employ people with disabilities at this dreadfully sub-minimum wage is called a sheltered workshop. The term sheltered workshop refers to an organization or environment that employs people with disabilities separately from others. The term ‘sheltered workshop’ is considered outdated in the U.K. and the U.S., and increasingly in Australia. If even the terms are outdated, why are these places still running?
I couldn’t find many acceptable reasons but here is an opinion that I did find:
Many parents, guardians, and employees themselves say that the advantages of sheltered work-shops include that they are safer alternatives to outside employment, they are less demanding for people with disabilities in terms of work and social skills, they provide greater opportunities for fostering friendships, they ensure structure during the weekdays, and they ensure assistance for life without affecting disability benefits.
Safety has also been cited as a positive for workshops as many parents and guardians are concerned about the vulnerability of their loved ones in an integrated setting in the community.
I do see how they could be a benefit in the short term, and maybe even for training a disabled person in the very early stages of their first employment – but no way would I subject a disabled family member or even myself to somewhere that I wasn’t treated fairly by being given the minimum wage!
To make things easier for disabled people, employers could simply make their workplaces more accessible, invest in to specialized equipment that people with disabilities can use and more training exercises.
It’s about time the world woke up to the idea that disabled people are perfectly competent doing the same jobs as everybody else; most importantly doing the jobs just as good, making the same amount of friends and gaining the same amount of social skills as anybody else, so of course their pay should be equal. Our culture spends a lot of the time talking about equal rights but where are the rights of these disabled people that are getting paid pennies?
There have been studies that have found that people with disabilities that were working in sheltered workshops actually thrived when they were given the opportunity to work out in the community, surely this says something! As for the safety aspect of these sheltered workshops, I completely understand that many parents, guardians and caretakers feel at ease knowing their loved ones are being cared of around the clock while at work, but surely something could be put in place so that they could have a caretaker while working in the community? Or maybe they could be placed close to others in the workplace, so that they weren’t left alone? Either way, I’m sure something can be done to stop this disgraceful pay gap.
As many of you know, I live in the UK and I don’t believe there are any sheltered workshops here that pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage, but that does not mean we can’t all come together no matter what country to fight against this form of discrimination. It’s so important as disabled people (a minority group) to stick together, help each other and not forgetting learning from each other. Maybe one day we can end this sort of discrimination and live happily side by side with everybody else! It’s time to get the world to wake up!
Have a great week everyone, I hope you enjoyed this post and would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Join in the discussion on Twitter using #EnlightenNotInspire