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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Work, employment, profitability, and disability

Understanding full disability after a brain injury
The ability to "work" is not necessarily the same as the ability to live independently.

In a support group, a friend made the following comments, which I have paraphrased to protect his privacy:
I have been faithfully doing brain exercises daily, and recording my scores in a spreadsheet. In many categories, my scores have improved, but math scores remain weak, and it is discouraging. Also, it is misleading to say I entered them is a spreadsheet. I spent hours creating a simple spreadsheet that should have taken a few minutes. Have other people experienced this kind of problem? My work is fine for what it is, but it won’t stand against what other people take for granted. (private source)
I replied to his post (with minor editing to protect privacy):
Yes, I have noticed the same things you mention. It's not so much that I cannot do what I could do in the past; the problem is the amount of time it takes. I can easily spend ten hours researching a simple topic that would have taken 15 minutes before my accident. With over two years of time spent intensely studying MTBI and work-arounds, and writing about what I've found, and doing practically nothing else with my life, AND if you catch me on a good day when I'm able to speak articulately, I can look very capable and intelligent, and it gives the impression nothing is wrong. How does one explain intermittent problems? How do I explain that the list of symptoms my Lawyer asked me to produce, that the average person could have assembled in a few minutes, took six hours for me to create (over three two-hour session with naps in-between), and was only possible because of the notes I have carefully indexed over the last two years? (private source) 
I can do anything an uninjured person can do, if you allow enough time. What I cannot do, is produce results within a profitable time-frame. (private source) 
Another thing most people won't understand, is that one of my symptoms is an obsessive desire to get better that drives me to do nothing other than research. No normal person could stay sane devoting themselves to this level of research. No one but a fellow brain-injured person comprehends the level of effort that is required to produce 15 minutes of results in ten hours. (private source)
Tororei (2009) defines work as the production of something of value through physical or mental effort. While work can be rewarding in terms of personal dignity, it does not necessarily provide a physical means of survival.

Torerei credits Quinn and Degener (2002) for defining employment as work that produces a physical means of survival.

Current disability law in the United States focuses on work rather than employment, and well-intentioned laws designed to ensure accommodation for the disabled actually tend to discourage employment of the disabled. In theory, employers are required to maintain a 5% disabled work-force, but the absence of incentives or compulsion effectively nullifies this requirement, while voluntarily hiring a disabled person actually puts employers at risk of inadvertently committing expensive violations of the various laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Tororei, 2009)

The failure to define work in terms of profitability actually results in less employment for the disabled, and higher costs for Governments providing disability benefits. Some suggestions on how to create a disability program that works to reduce Government welfare costs while also reducing the strain on the private sector, is to study individualized ways in which disabled persons can do meaningful work at a reasonable pace, within a reasonable time frame.

Cookie-cutter approaches that attempt to place disabled persons on assembly lines that could be more efficiently run with robotics is neither profitable for employers, nor fulfilling for workers, but incentive-based subsidized jobs that can be done from home on a variable scale would be ideal, equalizing costs for employers, reducing costs for Government, and providing personal dignity for the disabled.


Lloyd, D. (2013). Private support group conversation. (Notes are available to qualified
          professionals who will sign a non-disclosure agreement).

Tororei, S. K. (2009). The right to work: A strategy for addressing the invisibility of
          persons with disability. Disabilities Studies Quarterly: The First Journal in the
          Field of Disability Studies
, 29(4), Retrieved from

References of references:

Quinn, G., Degener, T.,(eds) (2002). Human Rights and Disability: The Current Use
          and Future Potential of United Nations Human Rights Instruments in the Context
          of Disability.
Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights,
          United Nations, Geneva.

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