20 April, 2005

Disability issues

Note: This is the first in what may be a series of posts regarding disability issues.

A cooperative house I know uses a complicated system of rent payments and chores to ensure all housemates work an equal number of hours inside and outside the house, regardless of how much you get paid at work. When I heard about this, my first reaction was: cool! My second reaction was: uh oh.

You see, I'm disabled and unable to work an ordinary schedule, in the house or out. These people are probably respectful and if I wanted to join their house, we could probably work something out. But when I told a disabled friend of mine about the house and their system, he had the exact same reaction I did, so I think it's at the least worth talking about.

So if you were the coop, how would you handle this? I think one fair solution might be that if the disabled person receives financial aid (say, from their family), then they simply account for it as if it were income earned for outside hours working.

But most disabled people I know would find it really difficult to ask for a special dispensation like this--even a fair one like the solution above. One reason is that asking for special dispensations can force you into the "sick" role. When I applied for government aid, I literally worried that I didn't "look sick enough" as I went to the doctor for my medical evaluation. What would this be like in a house? Should I feel like a guilty freeloader every time I have a good day? Clearly not, but I probably would. It would be even harder to ask for a dispensation if you weren't receiving any aid, or the aid level you received didn't cover normal expenses. Most smaller cooperatives can't afford to effectively provide charity to people who need it.

Are there solutions that will make disabled people more comfortable within the coop. movement (whether it be housing or economic)?

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