October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

I am writing about this for a few reasons. One of them is when I went before a Disability Judge there was a discussion about me, in front of me. What was said is that if I worked a full time job like I had been doing, I would continue to deteriorate until the only job I could do is put pencils in a box.

The second reason is that I was a bench worker in the jewelry industry for many years.

The state I live in has a nonprofit workshop for adults with disabilities that was being investigated by the Department of Justice for fraudulent labor practices. This investigation lead to a can of worms that they never expected.

At one of the local High Schools they segregate students with developmental disabilities and put them into a Vocational Program located in the basement. It is here that the students spent much of their day in a dim, isolated area, doing jewelry assembly piece work for companies the school had contracts with.

The parents never knew, the students never complained, they thought this is how it was supposed to be. One student has a speech impediment and some intellectual delays. But he’s a genius when it comes to anything computer related. He’s interested in graphic design and technology. But instead of encouraging these skills they automatically had no expectations for him or his future so they only prepared him for assembly line work for subminimum wage in a segregated setting.

In April 2014 my state made an agreement with the DOJ, the first in the history of U.S. where they have 10 years to make changes in the lives of those with Developmental Disabilities, from students to near-retirees who spent decades in workshops not knowing what they could have achieved.

What sounds good is actually causing some problems. The system wins again. Workers were promised more than $300,000 in back wages. But due to Medicaid’s strict cap on income and savings none of it has been given to them.

I found out the hard way that you can’t make more than $868 a month to get help from Medicaid. With $3000 in medical bills so far with one more biopsy coming up what do you do? How do you live on $868 a month? If any of you have Celiac Disease you know how expensive it is for food. I live on cereal. I do not get help with paying for food anymore. They used to give me $15 a month. Half a loaf of Gluten Free bread is around $6. I have not had bread in a long time.

I think these people deserve every cent right now without their Medicaid being effected. Who was to blame? Not them. They were not capable of understanding that something was wrong. Why should they be penalized?

I’m not at the putting pencils in boxes stage yet. Plus I’m pretty sure they have machines that do that. It was a wonderful thing to hear though. I never want to go through that process again. I hope the right thing is done for all involved but knowing the state I live in I doubt it.

About darie73

I have lived with Bipolar Disorder since my early teens. I have lived with Social Anxiety Disorder for even longer. I self-medicated with alcohol for over 20 years, that's how long it took to get a diagnosis. I'm open and honest about my mental health so hopefully one day the system will change. View all posts by darie73

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