KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Meet: Jennifer, Donna, Tafiba, and Michelle! These are not their real names. We changed their names, because there are people out there who believe in welfare and mental health stigma.
These people think that people like Jennifer, Donna, Tafiba, and Michelle should not participate in society because they are on welfare and live with mental health issues.
Jennifer, Donna, Tafiba, and Michelle have two things in common. They are interested in wanting to get back into the workforce and they have applied for a zillion jobs over these past couple of years and it seems that no one will hire them.
This is no surprise to me. I have been hearing this from many people in the income assistance community telling me this very same thing about applying for a zillion jobs and no one wanting to hire them.
All four of them met a few years ago at an employment readiness program that their caseworkers referred them to after they got on income assistance. Not only are friends, they also became roommates and moved into a four-bedroom apartment.
Jennifer is 36 years old. When she was 28 she got into a car accident and got seriously injured. Before that she was working full-time at a job related to what she studied in university. She has applied for desk jobs and no one will hire her. She sometimes wonders, is it because of her wheelchair?
Donna just turned 31. She takes medications for clinical depression and she is partly blind in one eye. She got fired from her old job. Before being forced to go on income assistance, she did go to a lawyer to try and fight being fired from her job. However the lawyer advised her that she has no legal recourse because she cannot prove anything. She is interested in joining the workforce but her experience is making her scared to do so.
Tafiba uses crutches because of a leg impairment. She once had a job working in a store that sells greeting cards. She misses that job, but they fired her from that job. There is no evidence that the employer fired her for that reason so, just like Donna, there is no legal recourse.
Michelle lives with cerebral palsy. She has two university degrees. She told me that at times she was hired to work on some projects here and there that gave her some paid work experience. For the past couple of years she applied for a zillion jobs and had a few interviews but never got hired anywhere.
So why is it so hard to find a job?
Is it maybe because the employer judges them on the way they are dressed? Or is it because the employers see their disabilities before they even look at their abilities?
Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
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