Linda Gasper Letter to the Editor
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Letter to QuintZine from Linda Gasper:
With over 20 years experience as a communications specialist, journalist, and college writing instructor, one would assume I would have no problems with employment. Wrong! I have a physical disability that took me out of the workforce for a few years, but now I am able to work on a contract basis, and what I am running up against is the “chilling effect” the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has had on employers. Although I do not need special accommodations, I do have to see my medical doctor twice a month — usually Wednesday mornings. I have chronic osteomyelitis of my right shin (severe bone infection), have had seven surgeries since 1997, and because this condition can “kick in” at anytime, I would never commit to working full-time because of my “ethical” standards.
I do not use a cane, and because I don’t outwardly “look” handicapped, I know the last position I had was terminated not due to my work, but because the woman in the editorial division of this renowned corporation assumed I was “psychologically” impaired. Although the ADA explicitly was written to protect people with “seen” and “unseen” disabilities, the act has actually hurt more than it has helped. Besides ignorance within society –equating “disability” with low intellectual functioning or “serial killers” — the numerous frivolous lawsuits that have been brought under the ADA have garnered attention more than any justifiable one. This is what has led to fear among employers.
So here I am, a woman who is highly educated, considered exceptionally intellectually gifted, as well as having numerous professional accomplishments and honors bestowed on me, but because of something beyond my control that placed a period of “white space” in my resume, I can’t get a job. It wasn’t that I had nothing to show for the so-called “gaps” in my employment history, as I have actively volunteered with a number of various advocacy agencies. However, because of some of this “volunteer work” and its nature — chiefly, advocating for mental health and physically disabled rights, victims of domestic violence, healthcare for all, and youth crisis intervention — it doesn’t fit in with the “mainstream” thought process: “APATHY, the best POLICY.”
You would at least think I could work within the nonprofit sector, but again this avenue has also led to a dead end. I have been married for 25 years this month, have four sons aged 24-15 with three in college, and cannot obtain “paid” employment. Let me tell you, the perspective from my former stance of the “outside looking in” has certainly changed from the experiences I have encountered from the “inside looking out.” By the way, I do have great interpersonal skills and a strong sense of humor – you would have to be where I am now; and I’m not one for the “Oh, woe is me” self-pity routine. Also, I firmly believe defeat only comes and wins if you let it. So, I march forward and will never lose my optimism, but let me tell you, this pursuit of a job is on an even plane with Dorothy’s hunt for the “Wizard of Oz.” However, “somewhere over the rainbow” is a job just meant for me.
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