Monica’s new job and The Disabled Person and Work

Because of a confusion at Monica’s job, Monica has been temporarily unemployed. Sometimes it is difficult for a person with cognitive disability to distinguish nuanced situations. At her last job some of these nuances occurred. On some days she was asked to join the residents of her nursing home for coffee, but on another day, she poured herself a cup and was disciplined. On some days free food was brought in for celebrations, but on another day she was accused of stealing a soda that was left in the refrigerator. She would refer to her phone for the time, but then if it rang and she answered it, it was a violation. Some of these incidents festered and her parents had not heard about them. (They came to light in a later interview.) So Monica has been home for several weeks, taking a breather so to speak. During that time she has greatly lamented her infractions, to the extent she can understand them. She has cried and journaled, but mostly looked positively toward her next venture.

Today her venture began. Her employer has placed her in a new facility which is actually a little closer to home. She was incredibly excited all the past week telling her relatives and friends about her new placement. Mom and Monica went out and Monica bought a watch so that she no longer needs to look to her phone at work…her phone is being safely stored in her locker during time on the clock. A journal book was purchased and inaugurated so that her employer can note any issues that come up. Daily it will circuit between home and work with a brief comment by employer and parents. Monica understands (we think) that it is better if she just eats and drinks food stuffs that she brings from home, and she cannot serve herself anything at work that she has not brought. This is a little difficult, sometimes there are mini-celebrations and birthdays celebrated during break. We will need to keep developing her sensitivities in this area.

So, today at the evening dinner table Monica reviewed her notes of the day and told us with sparkly eyes and cherubic smile all that had happened at work, new friends, new instructions and duties, new work hours. How happy we were for her, to see her laugh and almost trip over her words in her excitement. Then later this evening I was reading and came across this quote from Pope John Paul II’s document on “Human Work” Laborem Exercens (Section 22 – The Disabled Person and Work). I teared up when I read this and was struck with gratitude for all the efforts made by the agencies and employers who have worked with Monica. Despite occasional stumbles, they are participating in achieving this difficult good.

Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981:

“Recently, national communities and international organizations have turned their attention to another question connected with work, one full of implications: the question of disabled people. They too are fully human subjects with corresponding innate, sacred and inviolable rights, and, in spite of the limitations and sufferings affecting their bodies and faculties, they point up more clearly the dignity and greatness of man. Since disabled people are subjects with all their rights, they should be helped to participate in the life of society in all its aspects and at all the levels accessible to their capacities. The disabled person is one of us and participates fully in the same humanity that we possess. It would be radically unworthy of man, and a denial of our common humanity, to admit to the life of the community, and thus admit to work, only those who are fully functional. To do so would be to practise a serious form of discrimination, that of the strong and healthy against the weak and sick. Work in the objective sense should be subordinated, in this circumstance too, to the dignity of man, to the subject of work and not to economic advantage.

The various bodies involved in the world of labour, both the direct and the indirect employer, should therefore by means of effective and appropriate measures foster the right of disabled people to professional training and work, so that they can be given a productive activity suited to them. Many practical problems arise at this point, as well as legal and economic ones; but the community, that is to say, the public authorities, associations and intermediate groups, business enterprises and the disabled themselves should pool their ideas and resources so as to attain this goal that must not be shirked: that disabled people may be offered work according to their capabilities, for this is demanded by their dignity as persons and as subjects of work. Each community will be able to set up suitable structures for finding or creating jobs for such people both in the usual public or private enterprises, by offering them ordinary or suitably adapted jobs, and in what are called “protected” enterprises and surroundings.

Careful attention must be devoted to the physical and psychological working conditions of disabled people-as for all workers-to their just remuneration, to the possibility of their promotion, and to the elimination of various obstacles. Without hiding the fact that this is a complex and difficult task, it is to be hoped that a correct concept of labour in the subjective sense will produce a situation which will make it possible for disabled people to feel that they are not cut off from the working world or dependent upon society, but that they are full-scale subjects of work, useful, respected for their human dignity and called to contribute to the progress and welfare of their families and of the community according to their particular capacities.”

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