© 2016 Don Baker
Two things happened yesterday. A nice lady from a business startup organization called to say that she just didn’t know what to do for me. I finished re-reading “Blood’s Pride” by Evie Manieri (2012, TOR Fantasy, New York). Good book.
The Norlanders, a group of the cast of characters in Blood’s Pride, are tall warriors from a frozen north, with silver-blue eyes and blood, white hair, and gray frosty skin, who leave the maimed, disfigured and disabled out in the cold woods to freeze to death. Something like the Supreme Court of the United States does in its decisions to people with disabilities when they come before the High Court asking to be allowed to work.
If you don’t believe me, read Toyota v. Williams, (00-1089) 534 U.S. 184 (2002). In it, the High Court went to great, fantastic lengths to determine that Toyota did not have to keep a woman with carpal tunnel syndrome whom it had forced to work in positions she could not handle, until her Doctor told her to take some time off to heal or suffer permanent damage. All of the Justices took a hand in fantasizing, without any apparent benefit of personal experience, how it was to live with true disability. (See Naef, Andrea Kloehn, 2012, Toyota Motor Manufacturing v. Williams: A Case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Weakens the Grip of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Pepperdine Law Rev., 31(2):575-607)
But it wasn’t a matter of business necessity. It was a matter of culture. (See http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/11/12/164793058/struggle…, Struggle For Smarts? How Eastern And Western Cultures Tackle Learning, by Alix Spiegel) According to Spiegel, the Japaese believe that with the dint of effort, everyone can do everything the same. There are no “slow” children in Japanese schools, just ones who have not yet learned how to do something right. The entire class waits and encourages them until they do.
So in Toyota’s U.S. plant, under a policy of rotating job positions, Toyota required Ms. Ella Williams, who had already brought suit under the ADA and settled twice, to work in a position which required her to exacerbate injuries. Toyota required inspection workers to rotate weekly through a series of four jobs, one of which Ms. Williams could not do. Her Doctor ordered her to stop, and take time off until she healed. Toyota fired her for not coming to work.
The Supreme Court accepted and proceeded to embellish on the argument that since she could perform three of the tasks, she was not disabled under the ADA, and thus not entitled to its protections. As Kloehn notes, the Court had been expanding this doctrine in a series of rulings. Despite the ADA, it often holds that business should not have to put up with disabled people.
People with psychiatric disabilities face even grimmer prospects. (See Laden, V.A, and Schwartz, G., 2000, Psychiatric Disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the New Workplace Violence Account, Berkeley J. of Empl. & Labor Law, 21:246-270) Under High Court rulings that society has a right to defend itself against any threat of violence from mental illness, because of “the dangerous tendencies of some” (Arlington v. Texas, 1979), it grants employers the right to terminate on the mere perception of threat. For example, the Post Office employee fired for speaking about nightmares, in which the employee was the victim of a workplace shooting (Laden & Schwarz, p 248).
Nor does it stop there. I once corresponded with a woman in a wheelchair who organized theangrygimp newsletter. She told me of a run-in with a black female supervisor who went ballistic when this white disabled woman tried to commiserate with racial discrimination. She said her supervisor then proceeded to make her work life as miserable as possible. Her supervisor got into some trouble over that, but her job did not last. She told this story without making any racial comments.
Most people with disabilities would love to have proud and productive work, to be tax-paying citizens. It’s just not allowed. So we try again and again to make jobs for ourselves. But there’s this one problem. We’re not supposed to.
Our society may not put us out in the freezing forest to die, or burn us at the stake, or shut us up in poor houses and asylums anymore. But society does put us in welfare ghettos. My last job, a post-doctoral position, part-time because of physical injuries delivered by a drinking driver, went according to social principles described by Laden and Schwarz. After it became apparent that there would be no more professional work, Social Security Disability Insurance was the only place left for me.
I have since aged out into Social Security, able to live in reasonable comfort, if not style, on the graces of State and Federal aid for healthcare and housing. It’s an interesting setup. My SS checks come in at a dollar a month below the cutoff for aid. If I buy a tee shirt for $4 and sell it for $5, that’s $4 or $5 over the limit, and I stand to lose many times that in aid. They count gross income, not net.
Considering that my losses in aid could effectively be several thousand dollars, that’s an insurmountable barrier to starting a business. Not to mention that at my age and current abilities, it’s much more productive for me to spend what energy I have left developing intellectual property and filing patents. Making up business plans for businesses I can’t afford to start without going homeless just doesn’t compute.
This brings me to the other thing that happened yesterday, the nice lady from the business startup help organization. None of these places, not the Small Business Administration, not the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center, none of the fee-for-service or membership entrepreneur shops, none of them are geared to work with people who have disabilities and income barriers. So sorry, but they just don’t know what they can do. Especially if we are nearly house-bound by health issues and lack of reliable transportation.
If there really is a God, then God help me, but it looks like liberals and conservatives alike would prefer to keep us sucking on the welfare teat, while they either complain (like the Nazis) about “useless eaters”, or use us to justify gun control.
Well, the hell with them. A pox on both their houses. I’m going to keep doing research, writing patents, and filing as many as I can afford on limited means. It keeps me off the street and out of the mad house. And if I can’t sell any patent licenses at my price, the hell with the industry, too.
The nice lady from the business startup organization had one possibly good suggestion, ask a Business School to make it a student project to write up a business plan and do market research for me. I’ll go one better. How about coming up with a legislative package that would let people like me start businesses without going homeless over it?
It’s called vision. There seems to be a lack of it.