John Grant, 50 years old, has had a difficult time finding work as a computer programmer since his contract at a vocational and technical school in Oklahoma City wasn’t renewed last summer. Mr. Grant, who has had hearing loss since birth, said interviews in the corporate world have been “ruthless.”If a company calls to speak with Mr. Grant and he is having difficulty hearing, he asks if he can call them back using a third-party transcription service. The service provides real-time captions of what the caller is saying so Mr. Grant can more easily follow the conversation. Often, Mr. Grant says, employers simply say no and hang up.
Ironically, there’s simultaneous growth in the health care industry, in terms of available jobs and hiring campaigns, based on a survey of recent job fairs, leading some workers (e.g. from financial services markets) to retrain and retool for medical careers. In other words, one of the most lucrative fields of employment is in precisely the realm of experience that can cause the most debilitation and limitation to careers for other people. Health care is a watershed issue in lots of ways, not just politically – it’s a core source of both anxiety and empowerment.
This underscores the need for workers to have a reliable means to tote their own portable health care plans. With the free agent model, for instance, workers carry a corp to corp contract, backed by insurance that follows them from one work situation to another. In other words, free agency may be just what the doctor ordered to help overcome the reality of the “ruthlessness” grant describes. If a disabled worker could say, “Look, I’m bringing my own healthcare, not relying on you to provide it for me. Give me basic accommodations, and I’ll do the rest”, disability could actually become an asset in acquiring work. It may sound like a stretch, but how else, short of a significant tax credit, can a barrier be turned into a plus?