Employers are People with Disabilities Too

We organize a broad range of employer communities, with dedicated attention on disabled employers. Some people with disabilities receive in-home support through Medicaid and Medicare, others are “private pay employers” of personal attendants, and like many other employers, we often rely on a mix of family, friends, and care workers.

Home care workers in this industry support dignity, respect, self-determination, and independent living for disabled people*, seniors, those with chronic illness, or those with temporary injuries—most of us are one of the above at least at some point in our lives.  

Fair labor practices, basic protections, living wages, and a deep respect for care work are critical parts of fighting for justice for disabled people.

Intersecting experiences, connected communities

There is often not a clear distinction between care-givers and care-receivers; many disabled employers of domestic workers are also caregivers for family members, partners, or members of their community. Disabled employers also have a range of different relationships to attendant services and to the care work industry, as do domestic workers. Honoring our intersections and the points of connection in who we are is a critical part of seeking justice.

Sharing disability history, challenging institutional bias

Because there is no national policy for consumer-driven attendant services, disabled people are often without concrete options or resources to cover in-home services and care. This increases the likelihood that we are forced to live in institutions as opposed to the homes and communities of our choice.

It was within the context of civil rights struggles that the independent living movement waged a powerful battle for disabled people to have the choice to live at home and in their communities.

Demands to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” are ableist, racist, and classist; it is a myth that anyone has ever succeeded on their merits alone.

Valuing domestic work

Disabled people and domestic workers share certain historic struggles: lack of access to public services, resources, and support, and routine experiences of isolation, abuse, denial of citizenship and civil rights, and the devaluing of our work and our lives.

By insisting that the labor of attendants and in-home care workers is valuable and serious work, domestic workers also insist on the essential value of disabled people and seniors, affirming our demands for affordable, quality attendant services and care work in our homes.

Supporting the workforce that supports us

Disabled employers thus have a vested personal interest in supporting the very workforce that supports us; domestic workers sustain disabled people as individuals and as a community indebted to the legacy of civil rights movements we hold so dear.

We recognize that a highly valued and well-treated workforce is more stable and effective in their work, and would therefore provide better services to disabled people. We advocate for the expansion of funding for disabled employers.

We deserve a high quality of care and workers deserve high quality jobs.  

We also support the expansion of labor standards and guidelines, which would offer disabled employers tools for navigating challenging situations that arise in isolated and often intimate work settings. In addition, attendants are often disabled themselves; in improving the quality of their jobs, we support our peers.

We believe that freedom and independence for disabled people cannot rely on the exploitation of workers—largely immigrants and women of color—nor does it justify low-wage jobs with poor working conditions, little training, and no protections.

We believe there are enough resources to go around. We reject the argument that access for one group is more important than for another because this pits our communities against one another.

Every person needs support in order to thrive, and that we all have a stake in building a society that cares for everyone—families, children, workers, employers, seniors, people with disabilities, and every member of our communities.

Our commitments

In addition to our support for raising wages, standards, and protections for domestic workers:

  • We also maintain our commitment to centralize the issue of affordability, naming the widespread struggle for disabled people and seniors to access sustainable, quality care.
  • We commit to raise the issue of institutional bias and to voice our resistance to institutionalization of the most marginalized members of our communities.
  • We commit to act in solidarity with the call from disability rights to protect and expand Medicaid and Medicare.
  • We commit to advocate for domestic workers’ rights to training and career opportunities, and to insist that such training should not require transfer into medicalized work.
  • To that end we support disabled employers in developing and providing training to workers.

In holding these commitments, we aim to honor disabled people, seniors, domestic workers, and all those impacted by the caregiving industry.

* Disability communities, and Hand in Hand members, use different language to talk about ourselves and our communities. Some of us prefer “people with disabilities,” known as people first language and is common in the disability rights movement, though there are diverse preferences. This highlights the person, for whom disability is one characteristic. Others of us prefer “disabled people,” which marks disability as a primary part of identity, and the basis for forming community.

Written by Hand in Hand member Lezlie Frye with ongoing feedback, editing and contributions from Hand in Hand members and staff involved in this work.