Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships by Sarah Evans

Many people struggle with setting boundaries. They don't know when and how to say no in an appropriate way. This is an often overlooked issue for people with disabilities.

Boundaries mean different things to different people. I once heard them described as being where one person ends and another begins. I have also heard boundaries being compared to fences. They enable people to say yes to some things and no to other things.

I have noticed that one common boundary issue for people with disabilities is mistakenly believing that the professionals they work with are their friends. They may think this because they spend a lot of time with these people and they lack opportunities to develop friendships with their peers. Knowing this, professionals may (intentionally or unintentionally) feel bad for their clients and be afraid of hurting their feelings if they were to set boundaries. Therefore, they may find it difficult to set appropriate boundaries with their clients or correct wrong assumptions about the nature of these relationships.

It is important for professionals to be direct and forthcoming with their clients. These types of relationships usually only last for a relatively short period of time. The best thing professionals can do is prepare their clients for the future, including future relationships (professional and otherwise). As well, setting appropriate boundaries models and teaches clients to set healthy boundaries of their own, which will ultimately help them to value themselves and their feelings in relationships.

 Canadian Medical Association Code of Ethics

JKP Blog Interview with Frank Cooper, Author of Professional Boundaries in Social Work and Social Care

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Why Good Customer Service is Important by Sarah Evans

The other I remembered the importance of good customer service.

I was shopping with my aunt for clothes. One store we went into had excellent customer service from the moment we walked in until we walked out.

When we got into the store, a customer service representative asked us what we were looking for and took us to the right section. She helped us find what we what we wanted. Another representative took us to a change room and asked us frequently if we were alright and needed anything.

Our cashier was really nice, too. She was friendly and laughing. On our way out of the store, she pushed the button to open the door for us.

Little things like these can make a big difference. It is not always easy to shop for clothes when you have a disability. You have to sometimes deal with small change rooms and trying to determine different sizes and styles of clothes. Friendly customer service representatives make it a lot easier and more pleasant.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A Missed Opportunity? by Sarah Evans

The other day I encountered an interesting situation. I was at the aquarium in Toronto with a friend. It was during the day, and so there were a lot of kids with their school groups there. At one point, I was up against a display in my electric wheelchair and a little girl was in front of me. She put her arm on the foot rest of my chair, leaning against it.

I didn’t know whether or not I should have said something. I didn’t really mind her doing it. At the time, I wondered if her teacher might say something to her. Thinking about it after, I realized that it was my responsibility, not the teacher’s, to speak up and say how I felt.

This also raises another question in my mind. Is it just about me? I am not sure. Even though I didn’t mind, maybe I could have used this opportunity to educate this girl about people with disabilities and teach her that the equipment that we use is an extension of ourselves and that our personal space needs to be respected. Not that I would make a big deal of it, but maybe politely asking her to remove her arm could have gone a long way in educating her. 

Monday, 4 May 2015

Disability and the employment challenge

By: Chris Viola

Let’s not sugar coat it: almost everybody has some kind of employment struggle within their lifetime. However, gaining employment when you have a disability can turn this medium sized cliff into Mount Everest. Some people with disabilities are completely unable to work, but those who can work, face enormous barriers in order to gain employment. It is especially difficult to land jobs that actually pay the bills. There are fail-safes designed around this, but many of them simply will never work as intended, especially when it comes down to disabilities. Allow me to explain.

 In Canada, we have what is called the “Employment Equity Act”, which works in tandem with the “Canadian Human Rights Act”. These two acts state that someone can’t be treated unfairly or discriminated against due to their disability. Employers also have to be mindful not to discriminate against people for their race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. It’s a blanket policy that works for most groups, but there is a double edged sword for people with disabilities.  The policies, however well meaning, backfire on people with disabilities and most people don’t even realize it.

 One of the statements in the act is that an employer must ‘provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities’ and has several lines that boil down to saying that despite one’s disability, in order to get hired they still have to be able to physically do the job. For example, a visually impaired person would not be able to become a chauffeur. This seems fair for safety and practical reasons, but the ‘provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities’ part often causes complications that go against the disabled job candidates who are physically able to do the job.

 For the sake of an example, let’s say the interviewer is down to two job candidates, both with likable personalities and equal qualifications, one with a disability and one without. The person without a disability requires no accommodation. However the one with the disability, might need a wheelchair ramp, or a special computer screen, for example. Many companies would rather hire the candidate who won’t cause them to have to make and pay for changes in their work space. Likewise, if the person’s disability required they work in a noise free space, then having to give the employee a separate office with a solid door, might not be so appealing. If the person with the disability doesn’t say they need accommodations in their interview and then springs it on their employer last minute, they risk causing conflict with their employer.

Even though there is legislation to provide equal opportunities for employees with disabilities, the fact remains that having a disability continues to be a barrier to employment. Statistics Canada recently published a study on employment among people with disabilities (both physical and intellectual). In the study, 33% of 25-34 year olds with a severe disability reported being refused a job because of their condition.

Some people with disabilities do find employment, but the unemployment rates are considerably higher among the disabled. Those who graduate from university, do tend to do better than those who don’t but they also tend to be excluded from higher positions. I try to remain positive about my employment prospects just the same. I expect I will experience a great feeling of accomplishment when I finally tear down those barriers and succeed in finding gainful employment.