By Contributor on October 19, 2011

By Kathi Wolfe

We’re in the midst of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and such awareness is needed now more than ever in this brutal economy.

Though many persons with disabilities are qualified and want to work, we are unable to join the workplace. Nearly 70 percent of us are unemployed or underemployed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There are many reasons for our exclusion from the work force. Key among them are prejudicial attitudes toward people with disabilities and the lack of accessibility in our society — from a lack of wheelchair ramps to inaccessible transportation.

More than 20 years after Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability-based discrimination still exists. Often, employers fear that installing wheelchair ramps, providing assistive technology (such as voice-activated software that can “read” text to visually impaired employees like me) or making other accommodations will prove too costly.

Yet, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network, 56 percent of accommodations had no cost, while the rest typically cost only $500. Far from hurting the workplace the study found, such accommodations can decrease workers’ compensation costs, help maintain workers and increase productivity.

Nearly one in five Americans has some type of disability, according to the U.S. Census. Wounded Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans are eager to work. So is your neighbor who has a disability.

We’re not asking for special treatment. We just want to bring our skills to the workplace.

“I urge all Americans to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces,” President Obama said in his National Disability Employment Awareness Month proclamation. And he promised “to promote the right of equal employment opportunity for all people.”

I applaud these inspiring words.

But let’s move beyond oratory.

Let’s give people with disabilities who are able and willing to work a real shot at getting a job.

Kathi Wolfe is a writer and poet. She is a contributor to the anthology “Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability.” She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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