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Being Unable To Work Is Not A Lack Of Willpower

There has been a post going around on Facebook showing an amputee who is working with the caption “don’t tell me you are too disabled to work”. This is incredibly ableist and ignorant as all disabilities are different and many are very complex. Just because an amputee is able to work, doesn't mean that a person with a more systemic disability will be able to.

Example: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis may mean that a person is unable to work due to post-exertional malaise. The slightest movement or mental focus can trigger debilitating symptoms such as nausea, breathing issues due to weakness, a near paralytic state, dysautonomic symptoms, pain, and more. A few minutes of working on a task in a day can be enough to make someone bedbound and unable to look around due to light sensitivity and unable to type due to weakness.

Example: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome: Some people with POTS can't sit up for long periods of time. It is very difficult to do a job when you have to take intermittent breaks quite frequently to lay down. People with POTS may be unable to work due to frequent nausea and vomiting and also due to brain fog leaving a person unable to think clearly or focus on any tasks due to reduced blood flow to the brain.

Example: Tourette Syndrome: At the age of 14, I was sent home from my school work placement after just 2 days because they couldn't deal with my tics. My tics made me involuntarily throw pens, rip up paper, yell obscene phrases, close the laptop whilst trying to work on it, roll around on the floor, hit out at people, and run into walls... you can't work whilst doing that. My tics have also snapped a laptop in half before and I don’t think an employer would be too pleased with that.

Example: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: When I had OCD, the condition caused me to be unable to dress myself, walk up stairs in my home, and took eight hours out of my day every day due to performing uncontrollable rituals - how is someone supposed to work when they experience that and have no free time to work and no ability to perform basic tasks? I could barely use a computer at the time due to my OCD rituals making me scroll up and down the page for hours at a time and many people with OCD can also barely write due to the need to cross things out all the time or in my case, rip pages.

Example: PANDAS: PANDAS tends to start in childhood but can persist into adulthood, especially when untreated, therefore it can impact work life. There are countless reasons why a person with PANDAS may be unable to work such as loss of the ability to focus on any task due to brain inflammation, involuntary explosions of violence towards oneself and others, frequent seizures, paralysis episodes, etc. It often isn’t possible to work when experiencing severe symptoms like this.

It is sad how many people agree with the post on Facebook, thousands of people liked it and agreed in the comments, seeing it as a lack of willpower if people are unable to work. Many disabled people are the most determined people I have ever met, but if their condition leaves them unable to work, no amount of willpower can change that. People would not choose this if they had a choice. Living on or below the poverty line as many disabled people who are unable to work do would never be a choice, especially not as our medical care and symptom management aids are so expensive.

It just goes to show how much ignorance there is out there and how so many people are quick to judge and will not listen to people who are too sick or disabled to work, and just judge them instead. It could happen to anyone.

There are also some instances where a person may be able to work, but they face discrimination. I asked an employer about how they would support a disabled person, but they told me they just wouldn’t hire a disabled person in the first place.

I have realised that some people who are highly conservative don’t really care about the survival of disabled people. There’s one person I know who was saying that benefits should not exist and that everyone should work for their money, they gave no thought to the people who are too sick and disabled to work. They refused to listen when disability was explained to them, insisting that they knew more about the disability than the disabled person.

Disabled people are wonderful and worthy people, whether they can work or not. We still have so much to give and can bring joy to those around us.


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