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Right to work or refusal to work: Disability rights at a crossroads.

  • Academic Journal
  • Disability & Society. Oct 2021, Vol. 36 Issue 9, p1375-1398. 24p.
  • Work is a central conduit to justice for the disability rights movement, which claims that through work, persons with disabilities may find meaning, belonging, and a sense of worthiness, and be taken seriously as rights-holders. Proponents of the right to work argue that over time, a combination of work, public education, and activism will erode social, cultural, and political barriers to full participation in society. But this emphasis on the right to work necessarily excludes people who cannot work and undermines their claims to other rights. A disability rights program founded on a work ethic that goes along with the right to work draws lines of inclusion and exclusion, cultivates harmful ideas of worthiness, produces a duty to work, and de-values alternative modes of living. Solutions to better deal with the fraught intersection of work and disability are thus unlikely to emerge from singling out the disability rights movement. Only if we cast the net wider and grapple with the root problems of the work ethic in tandem – by addressing issues of time, valuing alternative ways of being, building social, economic, and political scaffolds to make visible people's experiences at and expectations of work, and, potentially, exercising the refusal to work – can work become a place of empowerment and flourishing for all. The right to work is a central gateway for persons with disabilities for social inclusion. States have crafted a range of policies to give effect to this right, but these have not changed the reality that most people with disabilities are either unemployed, facing poverty, or are socially excluded. Post-work scholarship makes a compelling case that the right to work cannot be remedied for people with disabilities by looking at their experience alone; the problems at the intersection of disability and work might be particularly pronounced or obvious, but they are part and parcel of wider issues plaguing the world of work as currently conceptualized. By fruitfully combining new advances in post-work scholarship and critical disability rights theory, this article describes the most urgent changes needed to remedy the fraught intersection of work and disability. To make the right to work for people with disabilities, we must reconsider issues of time, value alternative ways of being, build social, economic, and political scaffolds to make visible and effective people's experiences at and expectations of work, and exercise a refusal to work. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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