The Stigma of Not Working a Job

What people with disabilities have to deal with when we make the decision to not work a job is dealing with the stigma of not working a job. Stigma is a negative stereotype and discrimination is the behavior that results from this negative stereotype [1]. The discrimination can come in the form of coercion, interference, or intimidation, which these actions have been deemed unlawful under the Americans With Disabilities Act under section 12203(b) [2]. Since a person with a disability is capable of arguing they are dealing with stigma should they apply for their disability benefits, it is important to learn what stigma is and how that is related to what people with disabilities deal with when they pursue an alternative means to an earned income.

Stigma often comes from dealing with a lack of understanding [3] when people with autism must live their lives as if they have autism, which the same that can be said for any disability. We describe people with autism as neurodivergent. The neurodiverse must deal with neurotypicals who expect us to behave and live as if we are not neurodivergent. When we genuinely are different from neurotypicals, what we do for a job is capable of looking completely different from what neurotypicals do, which is why the neurodiverse deal with the lack of understanding when neurotypicals do not understand why we pursue something they would not consider a career.

For the autistic or any disability, the reason why we pursue such a different career is so we do not have to deal with how we are disabled by the world we live in. Even if we can’t completely negate that, simply minimizing how much we deal with our disabilities makes a huge difference in our day-to-day lives. A matter of fact, the Americans With Disabilities Act acknowledges that, although the American disability benefits system is infamous amongst the high functioning when our applications for SSI are turned down.

I have a new friend by the name of Angela Barnes who works with Social Security where she takes part in hearing SSI cases. She tells me about a term, Failed Work Attempt, in which she knows it is not an appropriate term when we use the word “fail.” The problem when it comes to SSI is the program is fundamentally flawed, especially when you take in consideration how much resources that exist to support people with disabilities. SSI is not what it needs to be when in tandem with the disability community, people with disabilities are capable of learning why the last work attempt did not work out. Moreover, should people with disabilities get their SSI upon an as-needed basis without too much red tape, we are capable of making better, conscious decisions of what we do for a job rather than taking just any job just to survive. In doing so, making that effort and investment is to make sure the next work attempt does not fail. Furthermore, people with disabilities will be living better, fuller lives when we do not have to resort to our coping mechanisms.

I will use myself as an example here. When I worked a job, I could not control when I obsessed about my job. When I obsess, I am still thinking about work when I go home. I tried practicing the drums or the piano, but my mind is somewhere else. In order to get my mind to stop thinking about work, I played video games because stimming to video games is what quiets and calms my mind. Now that I know this is how my autism affects me, what do I do for money without having to deal with my obsession again?

The career choice of people with disabilities make is capable of not being what parents or guardians may not approve of because that is what unconscious stigma does. When the person with a disability is capable of speaking up for themselves saying that they do not want a job, whatever you do, absolutely never ever financially pressure that person into doing so. The legal definition of coercion is forcing a person to do something that they would not normally do [4] when it is more important for the person with a disability to safeguard their own mental health. Furthermore, it takes months for a SSI application to be processed. Coercion can take other forms, but financial pressure leaves a paper trail.

When parents make too much money to qualify for SSI to support a person with a disability, this also comes with the assumption that a rich family is going to share their wealth with that individual. On the other hand, this is where stigma and politics can intertwine, because the political divide between socialism and conservatism can be simplified between whether wealth is shared or not.

Even if the wealth is shared, the amount is capable of being a fraction of what the person with a disability can get from SSI knowing the individual is not going to be able to accomplish their goal(s) without a job. However, this is an example of interference when a parent or guardian uses the individual’s financial dependence upon them to impede or obstruct, which are legal definitions of interfere [5]. Interference can take other forms, but paltry financial support is a paper trail that makes it easy for a person with a disability to prove interference is happening. How can a person with a disability attain their independence when someone is interfering in that endeavor?

The questions that are capable of being asked are: “Why are you not giving any financial support?” “Why are you giving the person a fraction of what they would get from SSI?”

There is no good answer. Why? Amongst the disabled community, it is known people with disabilities are to be able to make their own choices [6]. The second legal definition of interference is to enter the concerns of others [5], which means any answers a parent or guardian can give means you are publicly making a decision for a person with a disability.

Intimidation happens when people with disabilities are threatened [7] into a job. From coercion, interference, and intimidation, getting your disability benefits can not get to you fast enough.

By talking to my local House of Representative’s office, I learned how I can expedite a SSI application, which means I have learned a lot in my journey about my autism and disability to be able to help people with disabilities should they experience stigma and when stigma comes in the forms of being coerced into a job when we do not want one, when someone interferes in our vocational pursuits, and intimidates us into a job. On the other hand, I must communicate that stigma tears families apart. Sometimes it is hard for a person to defend themselves knowing they know they will go from having a family to having no family at all. Furthermore, stigma is part of the “continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice” that “denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and nonproductivity.” [2] When stigma motivates a person to coerce, interfere, or intimidate, a person with a disability becomes dependent upon their disability benefits.

What is not necessary is the stigma that comes with not working a job. There are other opportunities for us to earn an income, so the stigma of not working a job is truly not necessary. When your loved one with a disability does something to earn money, the effort is the important thing that counts. They just need your support, and, if you can afford it, your unconditional financial support. This is an autism blog, and part of helping the autistic is learning how to control our stim along with other sensory issues because these influence what we do for an income. When the autistic person has a gift, that gift is a means to an income. It is just a matter of what you must do to monetize that gift.

Works Cited: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

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