The people hit hardest by the global capitalist downturn of the late 2000s are the disabled. When a recession happens, they are the first people to be laid off, they are among the first in social spending to be cut, and they are the most likely to be overlooked.
The global unemployment rate, 5.7% in 2007, could rise to 6.5% in 2009, estimates the ILO. Therefore,
“The number of working poor – people who are unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the US$2 per person, per day, poverty line, may rise up to 1.4 billion, or 45 per cent of all the world’s employed.”
The International Labor Organization recommends Keynesian relief policies, which are in vogue everywhere. In the United States, however, some states have decreased the number of welfare recipients by the end of 2008.
The reason the NY Times article gives is that cash assistance is viewed as “dependency”, whereas food assistance is viewed as “nutritional support”.
A big reason why people with disabilities do not obtain the rights that they have claim to in many developing countries is because the disability has not transformed the self-perception of the disabled or the workplace. Having a disability is viewed as a burden and possibly something that will prevent them from employment, stopping the disabled before they take an active stance and asserting their rights. Many of these obstacles are viewed as personal shortcomings rather than the products of discrimination.
A series of interviews from Americans with disabilities, chronicled in Rights of Inclusion, has a common theme throughout: workers and the unemployed with disabilities feel that the stigmatizing effects of receiving assistance are too problematic for them. They feel that having a disability decreases their reliability, is a burden on business, and this makes them reluctant to think about themselves as disabled people. Unwilling to modify their identities as people with disabilities, they do not receive the aid they could have under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
One disabled person remarked that his charm and persuasive skills, as opposed to explicitly invoking the law, was the key to make others appreciate the benefits of having a person with a disability as an employee or an associate. The authors, David Engel and Frank Munger, believe that “rights become active” when a formal claim is lodged with a government official, and when the person’s self-perception is transformed.
“Rights are the vehicle for achieving equality, but to invoke rights one must first identify oneself as unequal – in a sense that one’s abilities fall short of an imagined ‘norm’.”
Martha Minow, at Harvard Law, says that “disability” has no inherent meaning because what is considered a disability in one setting is not a disability in another. It is meaningful only as a comparison. An exclusion based on a disability is a signal that someone has not been provided for as others are. The blame is on the institutions that create the disadvantage. So when rights are thought about in terms of social relations, their effect on identity are – in theory – no longer stigmatizing.