Disability Employment and Our Power to Transform --By Rolf Kotar
"Who?" "Who are you?" "Who are you to think?" Who are you to think that?" "Who are you to think that you can?" Who are you to think that you can change?" "Who are you to think that you can change the world?" These fragmented yet individually substantive quotes from a poster published by the Unitarian Universalist Association make clear our individual and combined strength, power and resolve as a community to fight for equality and improve our lives. Hard won behavior change can make one happy, even a leader. Job training with opportunities to demonstrate skills showing real talent isn't enough for climbing life's employment ladder. Frequent successes, no matter how victorious they seem, are rare, and rarely culminate in overwhelming triumph. A powerful internal compass guiding each of us over years of work experience is key to satisfying ourselves while climbing life's highest peaks. It's noteworthy that comparing ourselves to others is a brutal way to discount our personal and professional growth. Caring for ourselves and our community of people with disabilities (especially the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition's large membership statewide) is essential to transforming events in political, human service and health care arenas. In the end, we at CCDC help all Colorado citizens by winning our battles.
We at CCDC are transforming people with disabilities lives, one person at a time and in large communities. When beginning with a newly diagnosed disability (as we each will acquire one), most of us think the Colorado State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation as a first resource. Yet, "Voc. Rehab.'s" allowance for public benefits is tiny when compared to the past large budgets. Others choose "on the job training" or an apprenticeship with a bit more success. Last, many people volunteer, choosing work or a set of tasks they enjoy for a company or nonprofit agency. Then, after gaining skills to perform the job with finesse and with public benefits time actually in the position, they receive a regular paycheck. This final suggestion - beginning work without pay to enter or re-enter the mainstream is a safe way to explore your desires in a job without risk either to your employment track record or loss of public benefits, e.g. Social Security Disability Insurance. Be open with yourself and prospective employers about what you want and clear about your destination(s) in life, especially if you have multiple goals. Being successful with your chosen vocation while increasing skills gradually can be measured in many ways. Pay with cash doesn't have to be your yardstick. Learning to perform a job or craft as an expert (in your own view) can definitely be a goal. Hard work taking sustained effort can always bring a sense of pride. I measure how effective I am by counting the number of people I'm helping. Pick your measuring apparatus to show you empowered, competent, and moving toward a desirable and achievable destination.
Going back to work and off of government benefits (Social Security Disability Insurance, SSI, Medicare and Medicaid insurance) may be inappropriate for you. It's not mandatory to have a towering, dramatic set of accomplishments and recognition to accompany it to be happy, productive and fulfilled. Whatever your capabilities, when acknowledged on an ongoing basis - especially by your peers, can make a person with a serious disability feel fulfilled. Please recall, it's up to you to select the instrument with which to measure the kind and size of your accomplishments. It's all up to you. Then, you can "measure up," by satisfying the person who counts.