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May 26, 2009

Uncertain Times: Children and Recession

-2 "I just got laid off," a friend of mine announced last week.  That kind of news has been a common refrain among my friends and family members over the last sixth months and it seems like each month brings a couple more announcements. All around me I see that more and more families are finding themselves in the position of having to cut drastically back to keep a roof over their heads and make it through month to month. It has hit the deaf and hard of hearing community hard-- because it becomes quite difficult to find another job during a recession. Many of our deaf and hard of hearing friends are struggling in jobs that are on the lower end of the pay scale.  Employers are less likely to consider people with disabilities for employment when they have fewer jobs to go around.  During a recession, when companies are cutting back, employers are hard pressed to find funds to accommodate employees with disabilities.

I’ve been fortunate that I found a job this year with a company that employees a majority of deaf and hard of hearing employees and returned back to work full time.  This came at a time when my husband’s employer announced some job cuts and he took a voluntary week without pay.  This summer, his employer will possibly issue more job cuts.  We’ve tightened up, put the credit cards away and we are learning to use cash for purchases. My living room is empty right now as we sold a hand-me-down couch.  We won’t be filling up the room until we can save up the funds for it. We’re learning to live the way my parents did—they rarely bought anything on credit.


Last month, my husband and I attempted to refinance our house to consolidate a second loan and take advantage of the low mortgage rates. We were hit with a surprise:  our home value had dropped by fifty grand and we could not qualify to refinance without including PMI.  We had never had a loan with PMI and we didn't want to start now. At this point, there aren’t many alternatives.

My kids are aware of the recession that has hit the economy—it’s hard not to miss the two houses down the block that have stood for sale for the second year now. They know we are cutting back in some areas and staying out of the malls.  The kids see their father comparing gas prices and they’ve starting commenting when they notice the prices going up.  RedBox has become our entertainment source and ordering pizza is no longer a weekly event.

My oldest deaf son will turn 16 next month and he has this idea in his head that he'll be able to find a job quickly based on his enthusiasm alone. He's been filling out employment forms and dropping a few off here and there.  He has a couple more to drop off this week. I know that he’ll probably be filling out form after form this summer as there are far more teens available than there are jobs.  He is hoping to be able to buy a used car this fall with money that he has saved up from birthdays throughout the years—but I wonder just how he will come up with the money for insurance and gas. I’m hoping he’ll find an employer out there who’s willing to look past the hearing aids and see the enthusiastic kid who’s willing to work hard.

I hope that by the time my oldest graduates from college, that the recession will be behind us and that the kids can start their future with a solid start.  But first, I have to hope that there’s something left in his college funds.  They are at the point where they are worth less than what we started out with.


This is an original Chicago Moms Blog post.  Karen blogs at A Deaf Mom Shares Her World and is a feature writer for Disaboom.


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