World: Destroying disability stigma
Remember, we may be healthy now and sit in a wheelchair the next moment.
Joyce Bender, the president and CEO of Bender Consulting Services, an internationally recognized leader in disability employment, reminded us about the possibility that we might become a part of the disabled community in the future.
She believes that everyone is now temporarily able. There could be an accident or illness that might cause the loss of physical abilities or lead to physical handicaps, forcing one to use a wheelchair, for example. That is why people should join forces to eradicate the stigma associated with the disability community.
“Stigma is the big problem. People are looking down on them. They feel different. We don’t want pity, we want paychecks, we want work,” she said.
Through her consulting firm, Bender has over 20 years of experience channeling disabled people to the public and private sectors. She was in Denpasar, Bali, last year, to talk at a forum attended by companies and institutions in Bali that had employed people with disabilities.
Facilitated by the Consulate General of the United States, Surabaya, the forum, which was attended by 15 companies, was held at the Annika Linden Center, a community empowerment center for social entrepreneurs and NGOs in Denpasar.
Bender called people who hired people with disabilities champions for having freed them from the stigma of being unproductive.
“You are a champion,” she said during the session.
Bender shared her story of how she worked towards creating a bridge between employers and disabled job seekers. In 1985, she had a cerebral hemorrhage, brought on by epilepsy, which required brain surgery. It left her with 60 percent hearing in one ear and the awareness that she had epilepsy.
The incident happened when she was watching a film at home. The movie was long and after taking a break she decided to buy popcorn. She had convulsions, fell down and fainted, which resulted in a severe head injury.
“I was in a coma and had to undergo surgery or die,” she recalled.
After recovering, Bender has since strived to ensure that people with disabilities find work in all sectors, including elite institutions in the US such as the National Security Agency (NSA).
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