[nfbwatlk] Re Job hunting

Elizabeth Rene rene0373 at gmail.com
Fri Nov 7 17:55:27 UTC 2014

Hi list mates,
I must admit to not having read the entirety  of this last thread, but what Debbie says has struck a deep chord in me.
Fundamental to having the life we want is economic security based on stable and satisfying employment. Employment that pays well.
And if  this last election shows a dissatisfaction among the general public with the state of the economy and job security, we blind people have an even better claim to take a stand for more and better jobs. Who ever heard of a 60 to 70% unemployment rate in a country with an expanding economy?
But i'm not sure that asking others to "give" us a job is the answer. Nor am I sure that access technology by itself is the answer. There are deep, underlying attitudes in the general public and within ourselves that are very hard to shift (and nobody here, including me, thinks that this idea is news).
But the fact is that there are simply so many workplaces where we and the public tacitly agree that we don't belong. This isn't verbalized, but we simply don't see any role models in those workplaces. And if we do see them, these are people who stand out as super people, unusual people, not someone like you or me. And the people that we encounter in those workplaces can't imagine a blind employee or coworker because they've never had one before.
And I think that we are educated from little childhood to believe that getting a job is something special for us, not the ordinary course of life. Just as getting married and raising a family would be an unusual achievement, not something that everybody does. And what have our state agencies really done to change this? What have they accomplished in the last several decades to shift the unemployment statistics? I think instead that they have fostered a culture of dependency among their clients, shifting the parent child relationship from families to the counselor client dynamic.
I didn't use a state agency to get started as an attorney, though I did ultimately turn to Minnesota's agency for financial help in law school (and did get it), because the prevailing idea back in the 70s was that law school for women was inappropriate, and "evil endeavor," that would make me unsuitable as a wife and mother. Whose wife?  Presumably the counselor's. He told me that he "loved me,"didn't want me to make a choice that would prevent me from getting my husband's dinner ready on time.
Yet when I looked for a little jobs – the kind students get – to finance my legal education, I'd be spoken to in nursery voices by people who told me that I was sooooo qualified that I wouldn't want to work for their company. I was, in fact, performing all kinds of sophisticated work for different entities, for free.
It got to the point that later, once established in my practice, I used to smile and answer the question "what made you choose to be a trial lawyer?" With the quip, "I couldn't get a job at McDonald's."
And I found this to be true once I decided that ordination wasn't in my future and that I'd have to go back and pass the bar exam again. I had acquired all kinds of sophisticated skills in my seminary and hospital chaplaincy training, both administrative and clinical, had an Hanst my public speaking skills and developed abilities that will be further useful to me as a lawyer, and had discovered heretofore untapped creative talents that I and others have enjoyed. But none of this made me any money.
I did get some agency help while in seminary. But that stopped when my seminaries would not comply with the ADA. And it stopped dead in its tracks when I realized that I had to change my career path. You don't get to change your mind apparently while training for a particular profession. So with credits short of credentials in counseling, nonprofit administration, clinical bioethics, etc., etc., I couldn't get even the funding to put forward the application fees needed to launch my own programs because the new educational track appeared to be a flight from the job market rather then a logical completion of training I had already begun.
Please excuse the rant. I voice it only to illustrate just how much the existing support system can also prove a barrier to employment. 

Elizabeth i've gotten where I am today (still struggling financially, but at least credentialed and professionally respected), not because of an agency, or even the movement, but because of the love and generosity of a man who wants me to succeed.
Seems to me that there are still some unanswered questions out there.
What more can we do to teach one another? What more can we do to hire one another? What more can we do to raise our children with a deep and abiding sense of responsibility and sense of leadership? How can we instill in our children and imbibe within ourselves a taste for entrepreneurship and the confidence and skill needed to pull that off? How can we develop the nerve to tell the businesses we patronize every day that we want them to hire blind people?
I know that we do a lot to heighten public awareness about our skills and character traits that should make us appealing to hiring managers. But the iceberg issues are still there. And I think that they are the same issues that plague racial minorities, people with alternative sexual orientations, women still, and people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. "Different" is still "bad". When I trained for the priesthood, for instance, I was told again and again, though privately for sure, that the existence of a visibile disability was the outward sign of an inward, undefinable, and fatal character flaw that made me inherently unfit to lead. When I did excel, I was seen and treated as someone posing a threat to others, someone who "could not accept help,"someone who was not "soft and submissive enough,"someone who did not know my "place." When I did fail, and yes, I did fail at some things, well, that was simply just to be expected.
So another question that comes to my mind is this? What are people of color, gays, and cited women doing that we are not doing or doing well enough to advance our own cause? 
Because for me getting the life I want has nothing to do about worrying about being blind or getting a job. It has everything to do with doing the job and getting on with the life I want. 
And I want that life for you, too.
Thanks for reading this.

Elizabeth M René 
Attorney at Law 

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