In this installment from our series Just Ask: Talking About Disability, we explore the issue of employment discrimination and access. WYSO producer Anna Lurie introduces us to Susan Koller and Tom Webb, who both have cerebral palsy. They say many work environments aren’t set up to accommodate people with disabilities. And many people with mobility issues in the workplace also need special software or other assistive technology.
Highlights from this interview include:
Susan: "I had an employer who had a bad situation with a person with a disability, and right in the interview he sort of told me about that, so I knew from the beginning that I had to work extra hard to prove a stereotype almost wrong."
Tom: "There’s many times where I have come into contact with colleagues or bosses that have either regarded me as being extremely brilliant, like Stephen Hawking, expecting me to know the next great theory of something, or on the far end of the other end of the spectrum, that I have an intellectual disability and I can’t do anything. And I think that those are the assumptions that really get in the way of us trying to get jobs and get work done."
Tom: "I think that if we’re in a work environment that is truly inclusive, and if it’s universally designed, that any type of ability level should be able to work in that environment and there shouldn’t be a need for a ton of assistive technology. It should just be built into the operation, the furniture, the equipment that you’re using. We’re not there yet."
Jess Mador contributed to this story.
Just Ask: Talking About Disability was produced by WYSO Morning Edition Host/Reporter April Laissle and Community Voices Producer Anna Lurie, with additional stories from WYSO Managing Editor Jess Mador and All Things Considered Host/Reporter Jerry Kenney. The series was edited for broadcast by Jess Mador and WYSO General Manager Neenah Ellis, and for the web by Webmaster Juliet Fromholt and Jess Mador. Series participants included Todd Corthell, Lateef Brown, Michaela Feeser, Darrell Dean, Sue Reese, Heather Reese, Robert Sabwami, Susan Koller, and Tom Webb.