Paralyzed Army veteran works toward becoming a pilot
Jeck Deocampo • August 30, 2019 • 2021
Megan Helsel, a kayaking wildlife specialist, has her dream job, and T’angelo Magee is making headway toward his, a commercial pilot. Both say work is central to their identity. Both are disabled.
Americans with disabilities, physical and cognitive, in recent months have been joining the workforce at a faster pace than those without disabilities, according to data collected by organizations that work with the disabled.
Labor Day on Sept. 2 may be the first time the disabled regain an employment rate that was upended by the 2008 Great Recession.
The gains are the result of both technological advances and workplace flexibility that lessens commuting barriers, according to experts on disabled workers. But the gains also reflect the pull of a tight labor market.
With the U.S. unemployment rate at just 3.7% – roughly a half-century low – employers have increasingly considered job applicants they often overlooked in the first stages of what is now a record-long economic expansion.
The recent uptick is basically ‘the full employment story’ – it makes firms look at other populations they haven’t previously considered, according to the University of New Hampshire.
Helsel, 32, was working in her kayak on bird counts and other wildlife projects for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in New Jersey in 2016 when a previously undetected tumor burst in her spine, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. When her doctor broke the news about her sudden life altering disability, Helsel’s first question concerned returning to work.
Doctors told her that she would never walk again. But kayaking was an option.
New technology has helped Helsel and other disabled people to get on an employer’s payroll. Widely-used apps include Venmo, which allows mobility-challenged workers to easily bill customers, and iPhone’s VoiceOver, which lets visually impaired workers conduct business.
More specialized breakthroughs include an electronic-stimulating leg cuff Helsel wears instead of a bulkier brace that restricts her to wearing sneakers. The cuff enables her to don thermal boots needed to kayak through frigid winter waters.
Helsel is among the roughly 15 million disabled Americans ages 16 to 64, which represents about 7% of all working age Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey for July.
Labor force participation for working-age disabled Americans increased 6.5% in July from a year earlier, compared to a 0.3% increase for working-age Americans without disabilities, according to national Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE), a monthly report issued by the Kessler Foundation, a non-profit organization, and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability.
It is part of a two-year strengthening of the job market for disabled Americans, a rebound from the 2008 recession, which obliterated jobs for disabled workers at a faster rate than for those without disabilities, said John O’Neill, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation.
The employment rate for disabled workers was 32.7% in 2008 and plunged to 24.1% in 2014.
While workers without disabilities also suffered job losses, they regained pre-recession employment rates by June 2017 and, maintaining momentum, their job numbers are higher than ever.
Disabled workers have yet to reach that recovery milestone, although experts say it is now in sight.
Slow and steady growth started in 2015 and boosted employment to 31.2% last month, according to the most recent nTIDE report. By Labor Day, the rate could possibly reach 32.7% again, said Sarah Boege, a UNH policy analyst.
Less clear, however, is whether that hard-won recovery can last through what some economists say is an impending recession.
Despite the upswing in employment rates for disabled workers, some employers have outdated notions about disabled workers that create barriers to landing a job.
Magee, a heavy equipment operator who was paralyzed from the chest down in a motorcycle accident, has gone on 26 job interviews in the past six months for such positions as office administrator for a building complex and front desk receptionist for a law firm.
“When apply to jobs, we’re the phone, they go through my resume. I was, like, the perfect candidate. And then when I get to in person, then you see their, like, ‘Oh, you’re in a wheelchair,’ said Magee, 32, who ended up starting his own mobile notary business in Hackensack, New Jersey.
His career goal is to pilot small aircraft for commercial U.S. travelers.
The U.S. Army veteran who is married with a 3-year-old daughter this year was trained in an aircraft with adaptive controls. He was among 10 students selected out of 27,000 applicants for the Able Flight program. Now he is searching for similar training to earn his commercial license. (REUTERS)
(Production: Andrew Hofstetter & Aleksandra Michalska)
MANILA, Philippines — The Quezon City government said it will be suspending the processing of Persons with Disability (PWD) identification cards from Thursday (June 25) to Friday (June 26) to craft new guidelines that will eliminate abuse.
“We will use the two days to come up with the needed safeguards to ensure that only those deserving get the PWD cards,” said Mayor Joy Belmonte.
“Our protocols will be revisited and needed controls will be placed so the system will not be abused by greedy and opportunistic individuals,” she added.
Mayor Belmonte added that the decision was made following reports of PWD ID cards being issued to unqualified individuals specifically members of a well-off family.
Belmonte ordered an investigation into claims that six immediate members of a well-off family managed to acquire PWD ID cards in 2018 without submitting any of the mandatory requirements.
Reports said the involved parties paid P2,000 each for the said cards.
Belmonte revealed that the culprit behind the scam has already been identified and will be given a show-cause order.
He is given 72 hours to explain why he shouldn’t be held administratively and criminally liable, according to City Attorney Nino Casimiro.
If proven guilty, the said employee will face a grave misconduct case, which merits a penalty of dismissal from service.
Mayor Isko Moreno on Monday (August 12) urged fast-food chains in Manila to accept persons with disability and senior citizens in their employ.
“Bigyan niyo ng pagkakataon na makatrabaho muli ang senior citizens, PWDs. Bigyan niyo sila ng trabaho [Give senior citizens and PWDs an opportunity to work again. Give them jobs],” Moreno said.
Mayor Isko added that fast food chains should employ not less than four senior citizens and PWDs in their branches in Manila.
He insisted that people from these sectors must be given all the opportunities they can get while they still can.
“Marami diyan gusto magtrabaho hindi para kumita pero para makapaglibang, meron ba silang magawa na makadadagdag sa productivity level nila. Mayroon naman diyan na kaya pa nila, gusto pa nila kumita, o bigyan natin ng pagkakataon [There are some who want to work not just for the income but for them to spend their time into something useful to add to the level of their productivity. Still, others want to earn while they still can. Let’s give them that opportunity],” Moreno added.
60 is the mandatory age of retirement in the Philippines.
The city council of Manila is now drafting an ordinance that would require the aforementioned employment among fast-food chains.
The ordinance will be patterned to that of Japan and the United States.
Moreno believes that if the fast-food chains in other countries can do the said practice, it can also be done in Manila. (with details from April Cenedoza) /mbmf
QUEZON CITY, Philippines — The local government of Quezon City has ordered all establishments in the city to designate courtesy seats for Persons with disability (PWDs), pregnant women and senior citizens, under Ordinance No. 2804 S-2018.
The recently-approved policy also compels private and public establishments in Quezon City to provide additional seating and a courtesy seat signage for PWDs, expecting mothers and the elderly.
In case the designated seats are being occupied by other people, establishment owners and managers must exercise their authority to have the seat vacated for PWDs, seniors and pregnant customers.
The ordinance is aimed at extending additional reasonable accommodation to address their special needs and concerns, apart from the existing national laws establishing special lanes and other privileges for the said sectors.
Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the measure, the local offices of Social Services, PWD Affairs, Senior Citizens Affairs, and the Business Permit and Licensing are tasked to strictly implement, monitor and inspect the establishments for compliance.
Owners, managers and operators of establishments who fail to implement the new policy will receive a notice of violation or warning for the first offense.
A fine of P5,000 and/or suspension of business permit for six months on the second offense and a fine of P5,000 and/or revocation of business permits shall be meted out to establishments found to have violated the policy for the third time.
For government institutions, the notice of warning will be issued to the head of office or department that failed to comply with the local policy. – Robie de Guzman
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