Someone very close to me recently said: “You receive monthly hand-outs from the government, and you don’t know what it’s like to work a day in your life.”
Friends, this is a direct quote from someone who should know better for multiple reasons.
Many people labor under the misconception that individuals receiving government assistance are lazy, uneducated, unmotivated, etc. I would go so far as to say that there is more of a stigma around receiving government assistance than blindness itself, and that’s really saying something. Just watch parents scramble to round up their toddlers when a blind person strolls by if you doubt this.
Looking at the issue objectively, I can understand why angst and stigma have taken hold. Having a blind person in the community does not really affect people’s day to day lives, but taxes effect everyone. They are grumbled about when shopping, complained about when tipping, and raged against every February. Some people, apparently, need outlets for this anger.
“Why should you receive tax money when I have to pay it?”
“Why do they get benefits when I don’t?”
Full disclosure, my dad works with employment assistance and has always presented the PWD (Persons with Disabilities) money I receive as a way of “leveling the playing field.” Because of his positive and fair attitude, I never even realized there was stigma associated with receiving PWD until I was old enough to receive it myself. The first two reactions I got were polar opposites. One of my friends treated it like a joke, like I was applying to milk the system. Luckily the second person I told was all for it and encouraged me to apply. Anyway, the phrase “level the playing field” has always resonated with me. Today, it helped me peel away the stigma and objectively pose a question to match the ones disgruntled tax-payers ask each other.
The question of determining deserving recipients of government assistance can, in my opinion, be answered with one simple rebuttal question.
If you asked someone on government assistance whether they would rather receive a bit of money each month or have the reason for why they were receiving the money in the first place disappear, what do you think they would choose? What would you choose if you were blind, or in a wheel chair, or were a single mother with three small children?
I’ll tell you right now, the money I get is not enough to give up sight. If I could switch places with the person who accused me of receiving “government hand-outs,” if I could see and work any full-time job and they were blind with only a handful of part-time jobs available to them, I would swap in an instant. They can take their so-called hand-outs and get turned down by 80% of the employers in the city. They can struggle to rent from someone who insists that they do not accept pets while their guide dog stands calmly in harness at their side. They can appreciate their “hand-outs” while juggling forty volumes of Braille textbooks, avoiding thirty tinder guys with blindness fetishes, and explaining to the twentieth person that day that “Yes, they were born blind, and no, that is not really an appropriate conversation starter.”
Apologies, my friends. I do not mean to rant, but I do feel strongly about this controversial difference of opinion. The benefits I, and many others, receive are not even that vast, the entirety of my cheque isn’t enough to cover standard rent in Vancouver, but they are something. Because of PWD, I have made it through school and had enough to support myself while I secured a part-time job. I have an education and work-experience, two things that would not have been possible if I were unable to pay rent. This money allows people like myself to build a life for themselves. I am stoked to get a big girl job, get off PWD, and join the rest of you lovely people in contributing to the system.
Disclaimer: I know there are people out there who are somewhat lazy and could probably get a job if they tried. Some of these people do milk the system. The point I am trying to make is that receiving government money does not automatically make you one of these people.
Let me close with some positivity, because I feel like this post is getting too negative.
Most of the people I spoke to after the conversation with the individual quoted at the beginning of this post were 100% supportive.
Friends reminded me that I am a full-time student with a part-time job and that a lot of hard-working non-disabled students don’t do that much.
My heart sister voiced much disgust and talked me through my guilt.
My boyfriend said that knowing I receive PWD made him feel better about paying taxes.
Oh the feels! <3 I appreciate you all so much.
Thank you for reading this post. Please, feel free to add to this discussion in the comments. I value anyone’s experience in this area, especially as mine is mainly limited to personal anecdotes.
Be kind, and be aware.
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