Are disabled persons, old people still employable?

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As I See It

By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

Everyone deserves the opportunity to be employed and enjoy meaningful work! This is embodied in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Don’t ever think you won’t get a job because you are disabled or you are old because the provisions in the ADA safeguards older adults and people with all kinds of disabilities and give them equal opportunities to work. Most people think that being seniors or those with disabilities will limit their chances of employment. Not in America!

A friend of mine, who is disabled but very talented and able individual, hops around our circle of friends and acquaintances asking for monetary help. The second time he came to me, I asked him if he can work and will recommend him to a friend who is looking for qualified personnel. He said no because he said he is disabled but the way I sense it, he is just plain lazy. So there was opportunity lost and the second time around there was an opportunity, I called him and recommended him to work and this time he agreed. He was accepted and up to now he is still working and happy working in said company.

For as long as the applicant is qualified, capable and able to perform the functions he or she is applying for, he or she should not be disqualified or disregarded for the position.

DA, which was signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush, prohibits employers to disqualify people with disabilities to be employed. Of course this is easier said than done, but it is a law that has a wide-ranging civil rights coverage that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability.

Just to show you that disability is not a hindrance to success, let’s recall, six of the most successful people with disabilities. They include Albert Einstein (disability – dyslexia); Helen Adam Keller (disability – blind and deaf); Stephen Hawking (disability – motor neuron disease, a variant of ALS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis); Ludwig van Beethoven (disability – deaf); Marla Runyan (disability – blind); and lately Jessica Cox (disability – born armless).

Despite their physical disabilities and hindrances in life, they have achieved a lot of successes in their lives. These courageous people have revolutionized the world with their courage, determination, strength, and extra-ordinary will. They have overcome all the odds/obstacles they faced and never let their disabilities come in their path to succeed and set exemplary examples to others.

Albert Einstein, despite having a learning disability, is the greatest scientist of the twentieth century and the greatest physicist of all time. He fought his disability (dyslexia) and entered into the world of theoretical physics where he changed the face of physics and science forever. His theory of relativity is said to be the most revolutionary theory of physics which won him a Nobel Prize for his photoelectric effect theory in 1921.

Helen Adams Keller, deaf and blind, was an American author, political activist and lecturer.

She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Together with Keller’s teacher Annie Sullivan, they broke through the isolation ceiling imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing her to blossom until she became known worldwide as a prolific author campaigning for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, and socialism, as well as many other progressive causes.

Another known person with disability is Stephen Hawking. He is perhaps the world’s most famous living physicist who specializes in cosmology and quantum gravity. Moving with his wheelchair, it didn’t stop him from lecturing widely, making appearances on television shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons — and planning a trip into orbit with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Ludwig van Beethoven, another successful person with disability, grew up in Bonn, Germany in a very unhappy home. His abusive alcoholic father forced him to practice the piano who would punish him mercilessly when he made mistakes. By the time he was twelve, he was earning a living for his family by playing organ and composing. He was eventually known as the greatest pianist of his time. His first two symphonies are very much in the same style and form as those of composers that came before him, most notably Franz Joseph Haydn, his teacher.

One of the women representing the Unites States in the 1500 meter track event at the 2000 Olympics was Marla Runyan, despite the fact that she is legally blind. The American runner finished seventh in her preliminary heat and rose to sixth in the semifinals to qualify for the finals. In 1996, Marla set several track and field records at the Paralympics in Atlanta, Georgia. The 31-year-old runner has been diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a condition that leaves her with a limited ability to see what is in front of her. In Sydney, Marla became the first legally blind athlete to compete in an Olympics.

Jessica Cox, (born in 1983 in Sierra Vista, Arizona to William and Inez Cox) is the world’s first licensed armless pilot, as well as the first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. She was born without arms due to a rare birth defect. She brings message of hope and perseverance to others. In an article written by Hilary Hunt, she got this quote from Cox: “I was actually born without both of my arms, and while people think that’s got to be a very difficult life, in reality I feel blessed. I have this wonderful opportunity to show the world what can be done,” said Cox.

I agree with the saying that when everyone—including people who experience the most difficult barriers to employment—has the chance to contribute, we give them the opportunity and we all benefit from it. Principal Deputy for Administration for Community Living (ACL) Sharon Lewis emphasized this on October 10, 2014 when she said: “Among working-age adults, most of us would likely agree that employment is a critically important part of our lives. Employment gives us a sense of purpose that comes with contributing to something bigger, offers a sense of pride in accomplishment, and for many of us, it is an important part of our identity. Working provides opportunities for social interaction, chances to learn and grow, and exposure to new people and new places. And, of course, it provides income through a paycheck”.

In October, Americans observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) by paying tribute to the accomplishments of the men and women with disabilities whose work helps keep the nation’s economy strong and by reaffirming their commitment to ensure equal opportunity for all citizens. Held each October, NDEAM is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. It is a national campaign that raises awareness about employment issues for disabled people, and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

Let’s recognize people with all kinds of disabilities, together with seniors, who are contributing to the full development of our country! They deserve the best accolade on earth!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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