toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

May 12, 2010

sheltered workshops or sweatshops?

Glenda was born with a rare bone disease that crippled her body and put her into a wheelchair. She’s a feisty young lady and wants to lead a productive life but the people who run the organizations set up to help disabled people find work have let her down badly.

"I appreciate that these people do their best to uphold the hopes and aspirations of the disabled people who seek their help," says Glenda, "but in trying to help us become productive members of society these people are ultimately exposing us to more ridicule."

"I've been in a wheelchair for as long as I can remember," sighs Glenda, "and I've been treated like a second class citizen, too, for as long as I can remember."

"I live at home with my parents," explains Glenda, "but they are getting old. Dad recently lost his job and mom is desperately hanging on to hers."

"I worry about what will happen to me when they die. I dread the thought of ending up in an place where I'll become a vegetable because nobody cares whether I live or die."

It never ceases to amaze Glenda how those who start off life with a huge burden are often those who are forced by a largely uncaring world into bearing more burdens and facing more obstacles than ever.

She believes that the world is becoming more and more hardhearted towards disability and imperfection.

"When the cult of perfection has reached the point where fetuses are being aborted if the slightest imperfection is found," remarks Glenda, "it speaks loudly for the utter contempt that society has for people like me."

"Few parents these days," sighs Glenda, "want the burden of raising an imperfect child, but it is not just for their own benefit that they resort to abortion but for the benefit of the unborn child, too."

"They feel that in today's world such a child would have Buckley's chance of finding employment and becoming self-supporting, and would also have very little opportunity of joining mainstream life and shining in his or her own right."

Ultimately, Glenda believes that gene technology will make all of us ‘perfect’.

"But what exactly is perfect?" asks Glenda. "Is being physically perfect the only human perfection? Or the only human perfection worth prizing? What of the incredible talents of the deaf, blind, mute, paralyzed and so many other ‘different’ people in our world?"

"Most people have two able legs to get around, two able arms to do work, a pair of eyes that see well, two ears that hear well, a voice that is clear and articulate and good general health," says Glenda, "but very few people have special gifts."

"I'm not saying that all disabled people are gifted," says Glenda, "but I do believe that more of us have special gifts than the able bodied population."

Glenda believes that the cult of perfection will ultimately rob society not only of gifted people but also compassionate people.

"Let’s face it," she says, "no human being is perfect. The rosiest apple is often full of worms. Genetic engineering is not going to get rid of sociopaths and thieves and murderers. I really believe that society should look more closely at the special gifts that disabled people can bring to the world."

Having successfully coped with a burden all of their lives, Glenda believes that disabled people often have superb skills in areas that most able-bodied people fall short.

"Qualities such as patience, endurance, intuition and empathy are just a few of the special traits that can be utilized productively in society," says Glenda. "Who has more time on their hands to really care about the world than us?"

Glenda also includes the ability to ‘manipulate’ as one of the special skills because she feels that without being able to wheedle their way around, these guys would be more downtrodden than they are already.

Glenda is also critical of the people who run the organizations set up to help disabled people.

"I don't see a sheltered workshop as an opportunity to become a productive member of society," explains Glenda. "The whole notion of special employment for the disabled is humiliating and as far as I can see those places are little more than sweat-shops."

"More and more older workers like my dad," says Glenda, "are forced out of work at 50 even though they are 100% fit and want to keep on working. The rationale behind forced retirement is that there are just not enough jobs to go around and the young must be given a chance."

"In my world, the rationale is that the able bodied deserve priority in the workplace," says Glenda, "and that's OK with me because most of those jobs aren't worth having."

"What I want is a chance to shine in my own right, a chance to be accepted as a worthwhile human being," says Glenda. "I want to be seen as someone with special gifts that can do good in the world."

"I already help other people doing telephone counseling, but I don't get paid for it," explains Glenda. "Being disabled means that I'm not seen as someone worthy of a paid position as a counselor. That sort of job goes to smart women who drive BMWs and have rich husbands, right?"

"If older people like my dad are being forced out of jobs before their time and given a welfare check and told in so many words to go home and play with their rocking chairs," says Glenda, "then it won't be long before 30-year olds are given the same treatment."

"Globalization is doing terrible things to little people in the western world," says Glenda, "and it's going to do worse things to disabled people."

Bearing in mind the high costs of training disabled people for employment, and the low wages they are paid if they do find work - often insufficient to pay for their special transport, medical needs and technical aids - Glenda predicts that a future government voted in by the grown-up perfect designer babies of today will treat disabled people with the same disrespect that is now shown to older workers.

"They will be given a welfare check and told quite openly to go home and play with their wheelchairs," says Glenda, "and those who now earn a living helping us will be out of jobs, too."

Glenda believes that with more and more disabled people being denied access to jobs and the independence that comes with an income, the burden on caregivers is going to become a worse problem than it is already.

She also believes that the burden on disabled people will be worsened by the development of emotional disorders in addition to the physical disorders they have already.

"Of course," laughs Glenda, "a future government voted in by the grown-up perfect designer babies of today will have very few disabled people to deal with."

"Ultimately, there will be no disabled people, no ill people and no old people."

"Imperfect fetuses will not be allowed to become babies; recessive genes will be eliminated; accident victims will be fixed up with spare parts; and the elderly will be youthanazed or euthanazed."

"Everyone will be physically perfect one day," sighs Glenda, "but they'll all be emotionally crippled because of it."

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