What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it. - Mark Twain
People frequently joke about work as something you have to do, as if it is drudgery. In reality, working presents opportunities for self-discovery, exploration, and a deeper understanding of the world, as well as providing economic benefits.
For too many years, people with disabilities were discouraged from seeking employment. They have been told, either directly or indirectly, that their talents were not needed. They have been told that their lives were difficult enough without the additional "burden" of work. And they have been told that if they became employed they would lose financial benefits or access to support programs they needed to maintain their independence.
But things are changing.
More and more people with disabilities - even severe disabilities - are finding their way into the world of work. Instead of bringing more difficulty, work is providing a way for people to make a difference, to feel useful, and to achieve success. People are working part-time and full-time in every profession, sometimes using assistive technology
or flextime in order to accomplish their job duties while accommodating their disabilities.
Wouldn't I lose money by working?
Disability benefits have been modified so that working may actually improve your economic situation. Although your benefits may be affected by going to work, the impact may not be as negative as you think. It is important to know how employment will change your benefits situation, and this can be extremely complicated. But now there is help.
You are not alone.
Everyone is intimidated by the idea of looking for work, regardless of age, and whether or not they have a disability. There are things you can do to increase the likelihood of success, and you will learn about these by exploring the Career Center. As you join the growing ranks of people with disabilities who are searching for and finding employment, you will have opportunities to ask questions of your peers, and to help others by sharing your experiences.
Do not let fear of failure prevent you from taking the first step. You will learn as you go along. Like everything else, job seeking skills improve with practice. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
Here are some other reasons to consider working:
1. Money - Living on disability benefits is living at poverty level. Even working part-time to supplement benefits provides people with a little money that can make a big difference. Full-time employment, while requiring a major commitment, offers freedom from many of the strings that are attached to the benefit system.
2. Autonomy - Having money gives people choices and increases independence. For most people, the opportunity to explore an interest, purchase a membership, or take a class grows out of an improved economic situation. For many people with disabilities, this added level of independence is priceless.
3. Respect and self-respect - We are known by what we do. We introduce ourselves by naming our profession, and being a worker raises our status in the eyes of others. In the same way, knowing that we have something to contribute increases self-esteem and confidence.
4. Social connections - People make friends in many different ways, but the workplace is one important venue where friendships often start. While it is necessary to keep appropriate boundaries with work friends, these connections may last long after that particular job has ended.
5. A sense of purpose - We all need meaningful ways to spend our time. If you are fortunate enough to find a job you are passionate about, and where you have opportunities to share your expertise, you will come to feel that what you do actually matters. What could be better than that?