By Matt Flick: For Complete Post, Click Here…
One year ago, my world completely changed. On March 13th, 2020, I left my job for what would be the last time. I was informed I was furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was told my furlough would hopefully only be about six weeks. Six weeks turned into six months. Six months turned into a year. I know this is a common story. I know I’m not alone. What makes my story different is that I am unemployed and disabled.
I was born with a birth defect, spina bifida. I have limited feeling and limited mobility below the waist. I use a combination of crutches and a manual wheelchair to get around. When I was born, the doctor told my parents I would likely never walk and would have an intellectual disability. So I consider myself lucky in some respects.
This was not the first time I’ve had job woes. Like most people in the disabled community, I’ve always had problems getting a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for disabled people was 17.9% in 2020. Compare that to 68.1% for non-disabled people.
I’ve applied to thousands of jobs. I’ve gone back to school to improve my skills. I even contacted my local Vocational Rehabilitation office. This is a state-run organization that helps disabled people with job training and placement. My counselor told me I was making a decent amount in disability benefits and I should continue. According to her, it was just easier. This was someone whose job is to help me transition out of the system.
Of course, I’ve had some interviews, but they always ended with the same result. The interviewer would see my crutches and immediately some issue would arise. The duties connected to the job changed and I was no longer qualified. A day before the interview, I’d be informed the position was already filled. Despite the fact that I drive, the commute would be an issue. I was offered the job and then the offer was rescinded. I’ve been given so many excuses why I wasn’t hired. Due to the rejection, frustration and uncertainty, I developed anxiety and mild depression.