Confucius once said “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. Working and finding a career to be passionate about is difficult, and requires years of searching, training and perseverance. It requires overcoming obstacles, endless hard work and, of course, the perfect opportunity. For most, the idea of finding the perfect career or job is hard, but with proper guidance and diligence, it is feasible. However, for people with epilepsy, finding and maintaining a career becomes infinitely more difficult because of unfair social stigma.
People with epilepsy face many obstacles that greatly limit their achievements at work. Many employers feel that people with epilepsy are not productive workers, and cannot be placed in situations of responsibility or stress. They feel that the seizures are “fearful” and often coworkers of people with epilepsy worry about “unpredictable events”’ when giving first aid to someone undergoing seizures. Those affected by the condition often report facing an unpleasant atmosphere at work. Additionally, while employees with epilepsy do not have poor attendance records or high accidents in the workplace, they are often found to have lower salaries than their respective colleagues.
It is important to realize that epilepsy is a “spectrum disorder”, and so those affected by the condition have a wide range of causes, seizures types, and severity levels. While it is true that some affected by epilepsy have severe seizures and cannot work, many others, with other levels of the condition, can be successful in a wide variety of challenging careers. Despite the variance, research shows that only 40-60% of people affected by epilepsy are employed in Germany, Italy and the United States. In response to this, those with epilepsy try to hide their disabilities in the workplace. In the United States today, approximately 3 million Americans with epilepsy keep it a secret because they fear being treated differently.
It is important to recognize discrimination in the workplace against people with epilepsy. This discrimination increases the self-efficacy issues that people with epilepsy may already face, and significantly reduces their quality of life. Organizations such as the Epilepsy foundation and laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act aim to prohibit disability based discrimination, but it is important to educate the public and raise awareness to truly eliminate the stigma.
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- "Employment Topics." Epilepsy Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/livingwithepilepsy/employmenttopics/index.cfm>.
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- "Zonegran." Welcome to the Changing Faces of Epilepsy Web site. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2013. <http://www.changingfacesofepilepsy.com