Images of Hireup Screens

Imagine if finding a caregiver you clicked with was as easy as creating a profile on a website, similar to a dating site, and then matching with qualified caregivers in your area. Now it can be, thanks to Hireup, a start-up company in Australia that helps people with disabilities find qualified caregivers based on location, common interests and credentials.

Started by siblings Jordan and Laura O’Reilly, Hireup is a website which allows people with disabilities the ability to create a profile and view caregivers in their area, privately message qualified candidates and book and pay for services.

“When they sign up, we ask people who they are, not just what they need and then use that information to help them find workers with similar interests,” Jordan O’Reilly told The Mighty. “This is a really key point for us, it’s crucial to the kind of support we want to provide. We strongly believe that good support is not just about credentials, it’s important to find someone you connect with. Someone who can share in your goals and work with you to achieve them.”

Watching their younger brother go through a revolving door of caregivers, Jordan and Laura O’Reilly set out to make the industry better for people with disabilities and caretakers. “As a family we had to rely on an agency to schedule and send support workers to our home. We had little control over who they would be and, if we liked working with someone, there was no way to guarantee they could return,” O’Reilly said. “We had a lot of new faces through our home. Most mornings we wouldn’t even know who was going to turn up at the door.”

Not only does Hireup allow people with disabilities to have a say in who their caretaker is, the platform also cuts costs for users. Hireup comes in $6 to $8 AUD under Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme’s (NDIS) hourly rate for one-on-one support, saving people between $5 and $25 per hour of support. “In July alone, for example, we collectively saved our users over $60,000 by comparison to the NDIS’ hourly rate, which could afford them over 1,700 extra hours of support,” O’Reilly said. “We’re also incredibly proud of the fact that while the per hour rate is low for people seeking support, we aren’t forced to compromise on wages for workers.”

Hireup is only available in Australia, although O’Reilly hasn’t ruled out expanding the company to other countries. So far 4,500 people have signed up, and in a survey of registered users, 90 percent said Hireup has allowed them more autonomy and control over their care. 

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The now-dying tradition of the Saturday morning cartoon was a weekend ritual during my childhood. Before my parents had cable and way before the days of Netflix, there were the main three channels beamed over rabbit ears. I had many favorites as a kid growing up in the late 80s and all through the 90s, but one show was a must-watch, with my giant bowl of Lucky Charms and bean bag chair in tow. It was an obscure show called “Project G.e.e.K.e.R.” (or Geeker for short.)

“Project G.e.e.K.e.R.” was a show created in the mid 90’s by Doug TenNapel of “Earthworm Jim” fame and was voiced by an all star cast that included “Futurama’s” Billy West and Cree Summer, who voiced Susie in “The Rugrats” among other characters we all grew up with. The show followed the many misadventures of a man-made genetic “mutant” named Geeker, a thief named Lady MacBeth who had a robotic arm, and their dinosaur friend named Noah as they tried to stay away from the evil businessman Mr. Moloch, who wanted to use Geeker’s powers to take over the world.

They just don’t make shows like that anymore, huh?

As a kid, I felt a great personal connection to this show, but up until now, I couldn’t explain it. I would bug my parents to try to find toys or things that had Geeker on it, but to no avail. I drew my own pictures of Geeker everywhere and even wrote obscure fan fiction, which is probably still on the internet somewhere.

But as an adult, I think I found out the reason why this show spoke to me.

Like Geeker, I wanted to be “normal.” As someone born a result of a “genetic accident” due to my rare form of albinism, I sympathized with Geeker. I knew the struggles he had in trying to navigate an often-cruel world, and his strong desires to fit in. He would often attempt to grow a fourth finger for his hand, which he never succeeded in doing. As the show went on, Geeker slowly learned it was OK to accept his flaws and embrace his strength instead.

You can still be tough while having a disability. Lady MacBeth, also known to Geeker as Becky, is the main heroine of the series. She’s tough, smart, and sassy… and she just so happens to be an amputee. Rather than feel sorry about her lost arm, she pimps it out with laser guns and mechanical claws. As a kid, I hated the assistive technology I had to use to make my schoolwork bigger, but after watching Becky use the tools she has, I realized that sometimes, adaptive technology can make you cool and almost superhuman. Although lasers being shot out of my eyes would have come in handy to deal with the bully who stole my lunch money, I made do with Close Circuit TV magnifiers and telescopic lenses. If Becky could be badass with her arsenal of technology, so could I.

I may make mistakes, but that’s OK. Geeker is very accident-prone, always finding himself in trouble somehow. He may not be the brightest of the bunch, and things might get tough, but no matter what pickle he finds himself in, he smiles and finds ways around it. I made a connection to this recently, while battling with bad PTSD symptoms and the consequences that have come about. But like Geeker, I refuse to give up or give in to what people think is best for me. I’m better than that, and I’ll rise up, even if it means taking a step back or asking for help sometimes.

“Project G.e.e.K.e.R.” was a rare gem in the Saturday morning lineup that was chock full of action, suspense, and a great non-preachy lesson in personal acceptance. It lasted only a season due to government regulations requiring more educational programming on children’s television. Not many people remember “Project G.e.e.K.e.R.” because it was short-lived. But its message was clear. “Normal” is overrated and anything is possible, even if you are a genetic accident in a yellow jumpsuit, or a nerdy chick with a rare condition.

Follow this journey on Legally Blind Bagged.

 


In a recent story I wrote for The Mighty, I made light of some of the situations my chronic illness has landed me in. Afterwards, I received many comments complimenting me on my ability to make the best out of my illness. I’m not sure that was my intent when writing. Sometimes you have to laugh at the ridiculous situations your illness places you in (strolling naked along a hospital corridor after being showered by nurses? Anyone?) — and I have grown as a person since becoming sick. However, this doesn’t mean I have to be grateful for my illness, or enjoy it.

I’m wary of perpetuating the stereotype of the “Good Disabled” person. That is, someone who is thankful for their condition, who has learned from it and become a Better Person. Someone who tries their darnedest to get better, who visits doctors regularly and smiles and nods when they are told they must be faking it, or should try X therapy again. Someone who isn’t visibly disabled, and doesn’t make able-bodied people feel uncomfortable by being so. In other words, someone who hides their disability.

Woefully inaccurate media depictions of disability reflect society’s tendency to shun the lived experiences of disabled people. In “The Fault in Our Stars,” attractive teenagers fall in love, with cancer acting as only another obstacle to their melodramatically fated relationship. It rears its ugly head only when convenient to the plot: lung collapse and violent coughing take a back seat when a character needs to climb a steep staircase, then later make love to her teenage boyfriend. Quirky characters exist with a wink and nod towards Asperger’s – tidy, pedantic and unchanging. The cutesy treatment obviates the real challenges that come with being on the spectrum, such as sensory processing disorder, social anxiety, and feeling adrift in a world of social conventions that are impossible to understand.

Mental illness serves as a neon warning sign to viewers: THIS CHARACTER IS DANGEROUS. Despite the mentally ill being more at risk of being victims of violence rather than perpetrators, all it takes is a diagnosis to turn a TV character into a mass murderer. I nearly cried when my beloved “Midsomer Murders” (I know, I know) concluded a recent mystery by unveiling the murderer as a traumatized woman who had struggled to overcome a host of anxiety disorders, including OCD and agoraphobia, after her daughter’s death many years ago. The fact that she had been abused and manipulated for years by her supposed best friend and counselor, who had killed her daughter, was of no consequence.

The “Evil Cripple” is a trope that helps audiences recognize who they should fear in a story. We know villains by their wheelchairs, canes, ugly scars and, in the case of “Casino Royale’s” Le Chiffre, an ever-present asthma pump. The implication is clear: the disabled are “other” and therefore sinister.

Even in the rare case that a character’s disability is portrayed accurately, you can be almost guaranteed that they will not be played by a disabled actor. The film industry has no qualms about churning out tropes of disability, no matter how inaccurate or offensive, but apparently draws the line at presenting actual disability on screen. The only acceptable disability, it would seem, is a fake one.

But as we people with disabilities do not live in the movie world, we are forced to find other ways to appease our real-life audience. Instead, we become the “Good Disabled.” The “Good Disabled” only exist relative to the able-bodied people around them. They are denied personality, dreams, hopes and vision. They are the essence of inspiration porn; based on athlete Scott Hamilton’s now-famous quip, “the only disability in life is a bad attitude.” (He offered no such sage advice for those who were not privileged enough to be able to rely on their body for their career.) Pictures of men, women and children with visible disabilities are plastered all over Facebook, often without their consent, to act as a reminder to able-bodied people that “at least they don’t have it that bad.” No one asks the subject of the image what they think.

In a society where disability erasure is like second nature, being disabled — not “Good Disabled” — is a bold statement. Acknowledging that having a disability or chronic illness can be really, really s***, is shocking. And refusing to thank God, the universe and everything for a disability can seem like ungratefulness (why can’t you just be happy you’re ill?) Perhaps this is because when the disabled start to express these kinds of opinions, they force others to look at them as people, rather than inspiration or stereotypes.

We spoonies have it within our power to reject society’s ableist narratives and build our own. Movements such as cripple punk celebrate the “Bad Disabled” – people who smoke, drink, and eat junk food. Who don’t try shoving kale up their asses because someone on the Internet said so. People who rely on walking aids, who decorate their canes, and who refuse to be silenced.

Urban Dictionary sums it up:
“A movement that is exclusively by the physically disabled for the physically disabled. It’s about rejecting pity, inspiration porn, & all other forms of ableism. It ejects the “good cripple” mythos. Cripple Punk is here for the bitter cripple, the uninspirational cripple, the smoking cripple, the drinking cripple, the addict cripple, the cripple who hasn’t “tried everything.” Cripple Punk fights internalized ableism & fully supports those struggling with it. It respects intersections of race, culture, gender, sexual/romantic orientation, size, intersex status, mental illness/neuroatypical status, survivor status, etc. Cripple Punk does not pander to the able bodied.”

Cripple punk promotes what is truly a radical idea – that disabled people can own their body as is. There is no need to to strive to conform or be thankful for our fate. Enforced positivity is rejected. Cripple punk infuses disabled bodies with agency, an element which is denied by so much conventional treatment of disability. Our disabled bodies can exist in a public space, without apology or a requisite companion/carer to diffuse our “difference.” We can dance, unashamed, as Stella Young did (before being patronized by those surprised by the presence of a disabled body on the dance floor). In cpunk, disabled people are autonomous. We choose how we feel about our bodies, freed from the constraints of the judgment of others.

We disabled folk are not here for inspiration. We refuse to gratify an ableist belief that if we just try to be happier, our physical disabilities can be “overcome.” Yes, I can laugh at my illness, and yes, I am truly thankful for the lessons I have learned along the way. I can celebrate the bright side of my illness, while acknowledging the devastating impact it has had on my life. Because I am not your “Good Disabled,” and nor should I be. I am unapologetically disabled.

This post originally appeared on Chronically Siobhan.


I’ve just wrapped up my junior year of college at a major university. I study Digital / Print Journalism and minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Before I begin my senior year, it’s important to me to give advice to people like me with cerebral palsy, and others with disabilities who are trying to enter college for the first time, or wondering if they even can. The answer is, yes, you can! I believe you can do anything you put your mind to, and getting into college is no exception. But college applications can be daunting. Here is my “crash course” of 5 tips to get into your dream school as a person with a disability.

1. Don’t deny or downplay your disability on the application. Be honest about your needs and your struggles, where you’ve come from and where you are going. If you’re like me, you didn’t have a long list of extracurricular activities to put on your application or include in your essay. That’s probably because you spent a lot of time battling your illness and caring for yourself — use that as a strength. College admissions officers are looking at who you are as a person, and how much you’ll value the education, not necessarily the list of things you did.

2. Be realistic. If you don’t know what you want to study, say so! There’s no shame in being unsure, but don’t set goals you may not be able to reach in your application. Choose a career path that is in line with your ability levels over the long term.

3. Be yourself when writing your essays. The last thing you want to do is get accepted based on something you’re not; you want to know you got in because of who you are. I chose to write specifically about my struggles and triumphs as a person with a disability. I think it showed strength of character, and I think it paid off.

4. Apply to multiple schools. I only applied to a community college that I was already enrolled in as a high school student. While I did visit some schools and researched many more, in the end I really only sent out one application – and I got in. So, I give this advice because I regret not applying to more universities.

5. Don’t take rejection too hard. If a school turns you down, it’s their loss, not yours. They may not have been the school for you.

Happy college season, and good luck!

This story originally appeared on Cerebral Palsy News Today.


As a special education teacher and former special education student, I can’t help but compare my personal experience as a student with that of my current students. I try to use my memories as a barometer of how I want my students’ experience in school to be.

During my elementary and middle school years, I wore a back brace for congenital scoliosis related to my Goldenhar syndrome. This limited my range of movement, made it difficult to jump, skip or hop effectively and slowed me down considerably when I ran. In sum, it made it difficult for me to move like a kid. Without it, I could do all those things, but doctor’s orders were to remove it only for bathing.

As a result of this or my inherent personality growing up, I was mostly content being moderately sedentary. I watched a lot of TV and read a lot of books. I was only mildly uncomfortable playing typical games with my friends. I wasn’t competitive, so I didn’t care if I didn’t win a race or make a goal. I also knew I could bow out without consequence when I was tired of trying to keep up.

PE classes were different. I felt my teacher’s primary purpose was to teach us how to play games or exercise effectively to win — against other students or the clock. I hated the fact that I couldn’t opt out. I didn’t qualify for Adapted PE because without the brace I could participate with my non-disabled peers. But my doctor’s recommendation prevented me from removing it. Self-conscious, I felt like a liability to my classmates and a source of frustration to my teacher.

This was highlighted to me my sixth grade year at a new, bigger school with many new faces. Unbeknownst to me, my mom knew I might have difficulty in PE, so she tried to be proactive and talked to the PE teachers before school started. Still, when I arrived on the blacktop and handed my schedule to one of three PE teachers, she looked at my name and said dismissively “Oh yo,u” and directed me to the next teacher. Taking my schedule again, the next teacher explained his group was full and directed me to the last one. When that one saw my name, she forced a smile on her face and directed me to sit down on the blacktop with the others. Embarrassed and physically uncomfortable, I did so with little grace, I thought.

Thus began a forced relationship based on endurance on both our parts. When I jogged in from a mile run so behind, my classmates and my teacher had stopped waiting to time me, I endured her comment, “the cows came home a long time ago.” She endured giving me a passing grade anyway “so my mother would not be upset.” During this year, what little inherent interest I had in physical activity diminished more as I continually disappointed her. I became so fixated on my feelings of liability, I did not appreciate when my classmates tried to be patient with me as I tried to run and dribble a basketball. I had given up because of my teacher, and soon, so did my peers.

Years later, as a resource specialist and long after I had been freed of my back brace, I had the
opportunity to witness a more positive outcome for a little girl with cerebral palsy when I became her case manager. She used a motorized wheelchair and communicated through a computer. She was lively and intelligent and up for the challenge of being the first wheelchair user in our school. Her classroom teacher, a brand new general education teacher, took on the challenge of including her in meaningful ways.

Though the little girl did qualify for Adaptive PE, her teacher did not want her to sit on the sidelines
during class PE times. Having no training in inclusion, she came to me voluntarily for ideas. With the help of the girl’s assistant and a book on adaptive PE and inclusion of students with disabilities, the teacher wholeheartedly came up with a plan for her to participate and be happy on her terms.

Soon, I watched as she threw a small ball and participated in a modified basketball game, or laughed in mischievous satisfaction as she raced her wheelchair against her peers. No one hesitated, no one feigned acceptance. She could not participate in the same way as her peers, but her teacher made sure she was equal to them. Her teacher accepted and appreciated her abilities. She never hesitated in front of the girl, and the girl never hung back from the class.

I witnessed students approach her of their own volition at recess and devise games for her to play on the blacktop among other kids. She did not need to sit idly on the edge or participate in unimaginative activities in her wheelchair. This was right on so many levels. I was glad for her and for the other students. I’m glad this was a great experience for her, and confident future students with disabilities will have a positive experience because of this teacher and her students.


Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, refuses to stand up for the national anthem,
saying “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Whether you agree with his protest or not (and people have very strong views both ways), he has focused particularly on the epidemic of young black men who have been killed by police. But there is more to the story than the very important issue of race alone. Ableism is also a key factor.

As was demonstrated in a major report commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers, and make up the majority of those killed in use-of-force cases that attract widespread attention. The media is ignoring the disability component of these stories, or, worse, is telling them in ways that intensify stigma and ableism. Given how the media has omitted the full facts, I doubt that Mr. Kaepernick or most of his fans, despite their good intentions, know this aspect of the story.

Rightfully, there is increased attention to how to stop these killings and in criminal justice reform overall. But if we look at race alone, we will not achieve the success that is needed. We need to look at the scourge of racism and training for police and other law enforcement professionals. But we also need to own up to the fact that jails and prisons have become substitutes for psychiatric hospitals, a dire human rights abuse. Moreover, a critical piece of the puzzle has been missing from the conversation: the nearly 750,000 people with disabilities, most of whom are of color, currently incarcerated as well as hundreds of thousands who will enter the system if things do not change significantly. We need to understand and address the harsh realities facing people with all kinds of disabilities who are behind bars.

As RespectAbility’s report, Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, points out, 32
percent of people in prison and 40 percent in jail have at least one disability. More than 140,000 people in prison are blind or vision impaired, approximately the same number are deaf or have significant hearing loss and about 200,000 people have mobility issues. Fully 500,000 people who are
incarcerated have cognitive issues. One of the biggest challenges is executive function disorder, a very real disability where people generally cannot follow multi-step instructions. Frequently people make the mistake of thinking these individuals won’t comply with multi-step instructions, when the issue is that they can’t, until the instructions are broken down into smaller chunks or they have visual prompts about the steps. Both of these things can be easily done – but are often missed. Executive function disorder is often caused by lead in paint or water, something all too common in low-income neighborhoods.

The experiences of prisoners with physical disabilities, most of whom are people of color, show how unprepared the corrections system is to meet their basic human needs. For example, Joseph Heard, who is deaf, spent 22 months in prison after a judge dismissed charges against him and ordered his release, because no one communicated to him that he was free to go in an accessible manner. Raymond Fox developed permanent brain damage after being denied medication for his epilepsy. From a lack of training and accessible equipment to limited access to health care, our nation’s corrections system neglects people with disabilities.

In response, our report Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success, outlines steps to
integrate the disability lens into criminal justice reform. Overall, three critical stages must be addressed.

First, children with disabilities, especially those of color or who are new immigrants, need diagnoses, early interventions, resources, high expectations and work experiences. They face bullying, abuse or school suspensions and are among the most vulnerable when it comes to poverty, exploitation, victimization and violence. Only 61 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school, compared with 81 percent of those without disabilities – a 20-point gap. Addressing these issues can prevent these youngsters from joining the school to prison pipeline.

Second, we must address the challenges that people with disabilities face inside the system and prepare them for success upon release. They need adequate access to counsel, accommodations and supports. People with epilepsy who experience seizures should not be forced to sleep on the top bunk, which is a huge safety threat. People who need canes to walk should no longer be denied them for “safety” reasons. Deaf individuals should not be placed where no one else speaks American Sign Language, effectively silencing them. People who are hearing impaired or have other disabilities should not be forced into solitary confinement for their own “protection,” as that can lead to mental health issues.

We need to recognize and accommodate those with disabilities while ensuring access to literacy, including screen-reader technology for those who are vision-impaired. Many need to learn life skills. Not only should we respect the human rights of people with all abilities, but making these changes also will help reduce further crime when prisoners are released.

Third, more than 200,000 people with disabilities leave incarceration each year. We cannot continue to pretend that just releasing people from prison or jail is enough when recidivism rates remain high and the majority of returning citizens and residents lack the support needed to succeed. Families, government agencies, nonprofits, faith, community leaders and others need the training and capacity to improve release, reentry and reintegration. This includes access to stable housing, medications for mental and physical health and, above all, jobs.

The gap in labor force participation between people with and without disabilities is enormous, even for those without a criminal record, despite the fact that the majority of working-age people with disabilities want to work. As we approach Labor Day, we need to remember that only one-in-three working-age Americans with a disability has a job.

These issues are so vital that we have included them in RespectAbilty’s candidate questionnaires. Already Hillary Clinton and 16 candidates for Senate or Governor from both sides of the aisle have given us policy ideas on these issues. We are still waiting to hear from Mr. Trump and many candidates for Senate or Governor. You can help us by reaching out and asking them to complete the questionnaire.

Colin Kaepernick is right to focus on race – but it’s more than race alone. The discrimination and challenges faced by people with multiple minority statuses (i.e., disability + racial minority) requires national attention and resources. Without this critical piece of the puzzle, reforms will never truly succeed.

 

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