On December 16, 2020

Working toward work for the disabled

Dear Editor,

As I gradually lost my sight over my lifetime, I realized how important work is. Obviously it provides the income you need to live, but it also shapes identity, builds confidence, and provides purpose and meaning. I benefitted from all the preceding because I was able to remain employed as I transitioned from having sight to having less and less sight. I cannot envision myself without work!

Not all disabled people are that fortunate. The report ‘Working with Disability’ was recently published by the Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL), in conjunction with several other disability related organizations. It found that only half of the 44,000 people living with a disability in Vermont, who can and desire to work, are employed. The major obstacles for these thousands of Vermonters are a lack of universally accessible office spaces, lack of transportation, and a lack of training opportunities.

Making reasonable accommodations for disabled employees is not as expensive as employers think. The disabled community is a large labor force with diverse skills that employers can draw on. And being inclusive would benefit us all, including our families, other workers, employers, and the state’s economy.

One small example of what can be done: Vermont is the only New England state that doesn’t require insurance coverage for hearing aids. A bill is expected to be introduced in the state legislature this year to rectify that and give people who are hard of hearing equal opportunity in the workforce.

Charlie Murphy


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