Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty from a Personal Perspective

Filed under: Living with a disability,Work — by at 11:16 pm on Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day 2008 – a day when bloggers from around the world join their voice to bring attention to a specific issue. This year’s issue is poverty. Living with a significant, lifetime physical disability, poverty is an issue with which I’m well-acquainted.

Here are a few sobering facts from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities

  • Persons with disabilities face levels of poverty almost twice that of persons without disabilities
  • Two-thirds of Canadian adults with disabilities lack one or more of the educational, workplace, aids, home modification or other supports they need
  • Almost 60% of working age adults with disabilities are currently unemployed or out of the labour market
  • For women with disabilities, almost 75% are unemployed/out of the labour market
  • According to the International Labour Organization, the annual loss of global GDP due to the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour market is between US$1.37 trillion and US$1.94 trillion (emphasis added)

I am one of the 75% of working age women with disabilities currently unemployed/underemployed; albeit, not by choice. I did have a part-time job for one year, shortly before I was married – a job I loved and was totally passionate about. I felt good and proud of myself to be of off social assistance, finally. But, it was a government-funded make work project and, at the end of the year, there was no more funding.

I did try to find another job and went few a few interviews, the ones I could physically get to. But then my significant speech impairment and typing speed were barriers. Many entry-level office jobs include answering the telephone and typing at a ridiculous speed. At that point, the value of the left thumb wasn’t appreciated.

Left with no viable choice, I decided to go the self-employment route. Not that I wanted to be without a regular paycheque, paid holidays, a pension plan and the other benefits that go along with a job, but, I figured, by working from home, I could accommodate my disability by not needing to deal with inaccessible buildings and I could work on a schedule that worked with my energy levels, as long as the work was done on time.

And, I have landed several interesting contracts through the years; oftentimes, the client was not aware of the extent of my cerebral palsy. My ability was measured by the worked I produced, not by how I produced it.

But, paying contracts were sporadic. So, when my husband was laid off due to the federally government’s decision to no longer fund computer training programs for people with disabilities – Darrell is a computer instructor, and a damn good one! – we ended up back on social assistance yet again.

Last week I received the Good and Services Tax Credit/BC Low Income Action Tax Credit Notice, along with fellow British Columbians. There in black and white is our 2007 family net income, which is well below the average income of working people with disabilities, ages 35 to 44, according to the Statistics Canada’s Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006 released yesterday. Our net income even falls below the Low Income Cut Off (also known as the poverty line) for communities with a population between 100,000-499,999.

That stings! After working off my butt in high school and then seven years at university, getting good grades, I never imagined being here at nearly age 42. And, when my able-bodied friends and colleagues make three or four times or more than I do, that hurts. I’d like to think I work as hard as they do, yet I am living below the poverty line. Why did I bother trying so hard all through school? What was the point?

But, I try to focus on the bright side. We eat two or three meals a day, which is much more than millions around the world eat. We have a beautiful home and, at the moment, we can afford the mortgage payment, making us more fortunate than many others. Our other basic needs and the occasional wants are met. We are in negligible credit card debt compared to others with four or five times the income. We could probably show the Suze Orman types a few ways to save money!

Recently we’ve been shopping at the Quest Food Exchange – a low-cost grocery store for those on social assistance. Quest saves over 480,830 pounds of non-marketable food (i.e. bent cans, dinged packages, slightly out-dated) every month from the landfills and redistributes it those in need. Initially, I was embarrassed to enter the store; after all, we aren’t that in need, leave the food for those who really need. Then I realized it wasn’t about swallowing pride; its about doing what is necessary to get by and, eventually, to get ahead.

I still believe it is possible to get off of social assistance, permanently, and to be on the other side of the poverty line. Until then, I am happy in life and feel blessed with all that I do have.

(I’d like to thank Jill Atkey at SPARC BC (Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia) for finding these statistics for me today. Thanks, Jill!)

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by ...paul

October 16, 2008 @ 6:16 am

I don’t know where I would get the figures from for the UK, but I imagine they would be very similar to yours in Canada. Disabled people who haven’t worked enough to have built up any sort of pension rights will be in a very difficult position.

I can empathize with where you are financially Glenda. Since having to give up working ten years or so ago, we have had to struggle. I was too stubborn to give up when I should have done, and we still had a little savings. The last of our savings were eaten up because I was having to take so much time off of work, which wasn’t particularly well paid anyway.

But, as difficult as things are for us as a family, we are wealthy compared to many around the world. Meals are regular, and sufficient. We just about manage the rent for our house. We do have more debt than we’re comfortable with, but the repayments are being met. So, all-in-all, things could be better, but we manage, and we’re happy.

Thanks for looking at this Blog Action Day from this angle. It’s a great help.

Comment by Angel Cuala

October 16, 2008 @ 9:31 am

I did not realized that Canada has this kind of data, as I thought my country – Philippines has even worst.

Anyway, with the “disability” that you have, you have gone a long way compared to a lot of “normal” people and I should salute you for that.

Comment by Cyndi in BC

October 16, 2008 @ 10:03 am

Hi Glenda,

Thanks for another great post! I’m also on provincial disability and working on my self-employment goals.

I have so many things I’d like to do but my body just won’t allow me to move at the pace my mind would like. It’s very frustrating.

BTW, how do you get started with Twitter? I signed up but couldn’t figure out how to get started twittering?

Comment by Glenda

October 16, 2008 @ 10:04 am

Paul, thank you for sharing your story. I was hesitant to reveal something considered so personal. But, perhaps by sharing, like you have done too, we can begin to become honest (within ourselves and with others) about our financial situations. Perhaps then we can put an end to “keeping up with the Jones” because they are, in fact, struggling as much as we are. Then we can get down to what really matters and help those who are truly in need.

I’m glad you’re happy. Life is too precious to not be happy until…

Comment by Glenda

October 16, 2008 @ 10:34 am

Angel, thank you for your kind words. Imagine a world where we all live up to our full potential.

Comment by Glenda

October 16, 2008 @ 10:43 am

Cindi, I fully understand how frustrating it is when the body doesn’t keep up with the mind. Perhaps life is a buffet – there is no way to eat everything, so you choose what is most appealing to you with a few nibbles of new foods to taste along the way.

As for Twitter, I’m @GlendaWH. Feel free to follow me, then I can show you the ropes. Really, it takes jumping in and going with it.

Comment by ...paul

October 16, 2008 @ 11:11 am

Glenda, I think you’re right, and being honest with ourselves is the first, important, step. It’s pretty unusual for me to share something as personal so readily too; but sometimes it just feels right.

Comment by Doug C.

October 16, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

Glenda, if you ever need anything just e-mail me. I’ll do whatever I can to help. I know what it’s like to be down and out and certainly our own government isn’t any help.

Seems we need to rely on each other for that.

Comment by Karen Putz / DeafMom

October 19, 2008 @ 11:59 am

Glenda, I’m glad you wrote this because the reality is, people with disabilities are unemployed and underemployed in large numbers.

I just saw a full time salary posted for a job that I used to do– $26,000 at a Center for Independent Living. My eyes could not believe it. I was making $21,700 when I left my job to stay home with my first kid and that was quite low back then.

I have a friend who is deaf and put herself through school for the second time (BS in Counseling, went back for medical coding) and she has gone on ten interviews but nothing so far. Getting around the phone hurdle has been hard for her.

Finding well paying jobs for people with disabilities can be a tough thing– we need attitudes to shift in many cases for that to happen.

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