Session: Pathways to Equity and Inclusion: Examining Work, Poverty and Wellbeing Among People with Disabilities (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

136 Pathways to Equity and Inclusion: Examining Work, Poverty and Wellbeing Among People with Disabilities

Friday, January 17, 2020: 3:45 PM-5:15 PM
Marquis BR Salon 8, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Disability (D)
Symposium Organizer:
Kelsi Carolan, MSW, Boston University
Sarah Taylor, PhD, California State University East Bay
Approximately 56 million Americans have a disability and face a myriad of social inequities (Social Security Administration, 2017). Structural barriers, such as employer discrimination, continue to constrain access to work for people with disabilities, evidenced by the persistently low employment rates of people with disabilities across all age groups, regardless of educational attainment, compared to their nondisabled counterparts (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). Living with a disability can be extremely costly due to high costs of of healthcare, higher rates on accessible transportation, and lack of coverage for assistive medical devices or personal homecare. These issues contribute to poverty rates that are twice as high in the disability community, even when receiving Social Security disability benefits (Livermore and Roche, 2011). The social work profession must prioritize equity and inclusion of people with disabilities. Specifically, social workers must recognize employment as a critical pathway to equity, comprehend the often masked costs of living with a disability and address the systemic challenges people with disabilities must contend with in seeking a livable income while navigating social assistance programs. This symposium includes three original research studies examining the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities. The first paper examines how stigma and/or discrimination affects the employment experiences of individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD). Utilizing a qualitative research design and narrative analysis, the study explored how individuals with PD make decisions regarding workplace disclosure and requests for accommodations, identifying how stigma and/or discrimination affect decision-making and outcomes. Findings illustrate the pervasiveness of disability stigma, underscoring the need for social work attention to policy and practice strategies addressing stigma and discrimination at micro and macro levels. The second paper explored how disabled people receiving Social Security Disability benefits and living in the expensive Bay Area were able to make ends meet. Qualitative methods were used for 13 in-depth interviews and one focus group to discuss costs of living and the economic and work-related decisions people made under the programmatic confines of their benefits. Data was analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Findings illuminated the degree of poverty, amount of unrecognized labor, and creative strategies employed by disabled people to survive and find meaning in their lives outside of the formal labor market. The third paper aimed to describe the ways in which people with disabilities encounter additional expenses to maintain the same standard of living as people without disabilities. Using thematic analysis, this paper analyzed N = 1,357 Twitter conversations from disabled advocates who utilized the hashtag #CripTax to facilitate discussion on social media around the extra costs of disability. Thematic analysis was used to identify emergent themes from the #CripTax conversations, which included: medical expenses not covered by health insurance, extra costs of living in an accessible neighborhood, extra costs associated with public transportation, pass-through expenses from private businesses (i.e., #handicapitalism), additional costs for specially-prepared food, and the cost of lost productivity due to time spent advocating for accessibility.
* noted as presenting author
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