Watching the second episode of Employable Me last night inspired me to write another reflection piece. Last night we met three new job seekers on the autism spectrum- Krystyna, Jonathan and Ben. Being welcomed into their lives came with a host of new, valuable insights.
We explored themes of hope, connection and acceptance, and understanding and uncovering strengths. In particular, what struck me about last night’s episode was a consistent theme that emerged from job seekers’ responses to the question, ‘why do you want a job?’
Jonathan’s response was, “I want to achieve financial self-sufficiency, I want to find a wife and have a few kids, I want to become a philanthropist.”
Ben said, “I need to learn to survive in the big wide world. Having a job is the next step in life. It’s time to give back to society; I can start paying taxes, I can have a voice.”
Krystyna said, “I want to get into the workforce like most people, earn money and be able to lead a normal live. I want to lead a life where I am not handicapped by my condition”.
Krystyna also stated that having a job would give her something to live for, give her more self-worth and dignity.
These messages were so relatable, and I think the core theme from these candid responses is clear: people with disability want what any of us want, and they have dreams for their future.
This reminded me of a phrase I’ve heard bandied around in NDIS circles, and that’s working towards ‘a life more ordinary’.
People might not think an ‘ordinary life’ is anything to aspire to, but for people with disability who long to be on an even playing field, it is everything. And Employable Me is all about how we take steps to achieve that goal.
Another observation I made from last night’s episode was that several of the job seekers were placed in seemingly ‘mismatched’ jobs, namely Krystyna in a retail environment and Ben in a parking inspector role.
At first glance it’s easy to say, ‘that’s not the environment in which that person will flourish’ and it could well be true. But the reality for all of us, including people with disability, is that we learn a lot from being in different environments and having different experiences.
When Ben spent a day as a parking inspector he was outside of his comfort zone. Despite working in an unpredictable and confronting work environment, Ben appeared to learn a lot. It would have been easy to never have put him in that situation to begin with.
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