Michael J. Fox a role model for disabled

September 25, 2013

Michael J. Fox a role model for disabled

With his battle with Parkinson’s disease, his new show will advance cause of handicapped.

Michael J. Fox’s appearance at the Emmy Awards this week brought him a standing ovation from the celebrity audience. But was the applause recognition of Fox’s extraordinary record as a five-time Emmy-winning actor? Or was it perhaps the equivalent of “pity-applause” because of Fox’s public battle with Parkinson’s disease?

Hard to tell. But with the premiere of the Michael J. Fox Show Thursday night, Fox’s role as an actor could transition him into a major civil rights leader for people living with disabilities.

Television has the power to change lives. From our favorite sitcoms to the evening news, polls show that television is the lens through which Americans form opinions. Indeed, TV can have a stronger impact on both viewers and this country’s laws than even education or our own families.

Consider, for example, the media’s central role in the progression of civil rights. The Cosby Show and Oprah charted new territory for race relations in our nation. For the first time, African Americans were welcomed like family members into the living rooms of white Americans.

On another front, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Will and Grace and Married with Children helped advance LGBT issues. These TV programs shifted public opinion on marriage equality so quickly that elected officials and courts have been falling over each other to change their views — and legislation — on these issues.

In the Michael J. Fox Show, the popular actor will portray a reporter with Parkinson’s who re-enters the workforce. Because Fox is already so well-liked and talented, the disability community harbors high hopes that viewers will not only root for him, but will also absorb and accept the fact that people with disabilities can succeed in the workplace.

Why such big hopes and dreams? Consider this: 70% of working-age Americans with disabilities don’t have jobs, even though most of them want to work. That compares to 28% of Americans without disabilities who don’t have jobs. This disparity has resulted in extremely high levels of poverty, isolation and financial dependency for Americans with disabilities, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year in government benefits.

Unfortunately, the American public has a negative misimpression of what it’s like to have people with disabilities in the workplace, even though some of the nation’s greatest presidents and thought leaders lived with such challenges. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for example, were thought to have been dyslexic; President Franklin Roosevelt used a wheelchair; Albert Einstein is believed to have been on the autism spectrum; and, despite physical challenges, Stephen Hawkins is literally unlocking the secrets of the universe. But none of them had or have the power of television propelling them forward like the wind at their backs.

The Michael J. Fox Show may be the catalyst for a welcome change and its star can be the Martin Luther King of our era. After all, according to the U.S. Census, almost one in five people — approximately 57 million Americans — identify as people with disabilities. With the advent of the Michael J. Fox Show, this population will now have a visible positive role model in the eyes of millions of America.

Some major businesses have already made the effort to include people with disabilities in their workforces. They have found that it brings them an economic advantage. Walgreens, for example, is a proven model for hiring people with disabilities. The company, and others who have made similar decisions to hire people with disabilities, find that they are often exceptionally loyal workers, have fewer accidents in the workplace and can make a company more profitable.

With any luck, Michael J. Fox and his new show will chart a new course, moving jobs for people with disabilities beyond the fantasy of TV screens and into our real lives.

This article was written by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, a person with a disability, is the president of http://www.RespectAbilityUSA.org, a non-profit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream.

Published by USA Today.



Leaving the Job

September 17, 2013

My son needs me and I need him.  I feel the pull all day everyday. I know he is cared for to the best of the caregiver’s ability but not mine.  There are things that need to get done that are not getting done. For this reason, I am leaving my job.  

I’m not sure how I feel about this transition.  I can rationalize the decision but I am not sure all of my reasons are true.  I feel like I am doing the right thing (rationalization) and at the same time I feel that I have to sell myself and others on my decision.

I’m getting lots of questions from friends and family about my decision to leave.  You’re leaving? Why?  I give the reasons and most of what I get is good luck with that!  

The flip side of the coin is that the students that I am working with have given me positive feedback on the job that I have done.  I feel rewarded in that arena.  My son is happy so I am happy.  

I made the right decision.

Managing at home

September 12, 2013

Dan has moved home. I didn’t understand how this would change my life.  He has a caregiver so that I can work and take care of my responsibilities.  But after three months, things are not going as smoothly as I hoped.  I tenured my resignation at College Living Experience, effective September 27th.  I am starting my own business October 1st.  I also plan to start taking better care of myself, Dan and my other responsibilities.  It is a time of change and it is exciting!