Guest Blog: Fair Wage for the Invalueable

David Chappel

March 30, 2015

It’s amazing to think about the wages that go along with certain jobs. According to Cleveland.com, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers makes $2.29 per second, which equals $8244.00 per hour. I realize that he does donate a lot to charities, but all he does is play basketball. Another example of high profile person with extraordinary salary is Jennifer Lopez. The Forbes Magazine web site reports that she made $37,000,000 in 2014 to sing and to tell people they cannot sing on American Idol. I tell people they cannot sing all of time but I am not paid for it. Yet, people who work the hardest and do not have the most glamorous jobs, such as personal care attendants, are paid the least. This doesn’t seem right. Their jobs are the most essential because their work enables millions of people with disabilities to live independently.

Having a severe disability (cerebral palsy), I can’t continue to lead the independent life that I do today without my attendants. I need my attendants to assist me with my personal daily living needs, which include showering, assisting me in the bathroom, and eating. These activities can be messy and awkward at times, but they need to be done. I also rely on my attendants when I am physically sick and need to go to the hospital. Of course, this almost always happens during the night when I don’t have an attendant and need to call somebody. It is times like these I need somebody to go beyond his or her regular duties to help me. Unfortunately, I usually cannot pay my attendants when they do extra things like take me to the hospital because I can’t exceed my set number of attendant care hours.

I dread the thought of having to live with a family member or, even worse, in a nursing home. In fact, I’ve already lived in a nursing home briefly and the care I received was below par, to put it nicely (you can read more about that here!). The Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in nursing homes are paid between $12 and $13 per hour, but they are over worked and aren’t motivated to go the extra mile. They are expected to tend to 15-20 residents, which leaves them feeling like they’re on an assembly line putting people together, and they have no time to form relationships with the residents. The CNAs that I’ve known would rather work in home healthcare, but it does not pay enough.

For example, my Medicaid waiver program only currently pays my attendant $9.39 per hour. This is up from $9.15 per hour after I fought to give her a $0.24 raise. And this is still a low pay rate that can cause a problem when trying to hire new attendants. Once, I actually had a potential new attendant say that I should be ashamed of myself for paying so low. I responded with, “NO, Medicaid decision makers should be ashamed of themselves! I do not set the pay rate, they do.” It should go without saying, I did not hire that person.

What people like don’t understand is that—if I could—I would pay my attendants twice as much as LeBron James because I appreciate how they allow me to live how I want and where I want.

About David

In an outdoor setting, a man in a power chair equipped with a screen grins at the camera.David is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. That is where he lived since he was born in 1969. He moved to Austin in April of 2012 to be with the woman he loves. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Cleveland State University and has worked with technology for most of his professional life. Born with cerebral palsy, he is a quadriplegic and uses a communication device to speak. During his first few years in Austin, he has been involved with two organizations that have helped him develop his artistic and creative side. First, since September of 2013, Dave has been a proud part of the Opening Minds, Opening Doors program at VSA Texas, where he develops personal stories that promote self-advocacy with his fellow writers and presents these stories at conferences throughout Texas. Second, he is also a part of a community of artists with disabilities at Imagine Art studios. At Imagine Art, he gets support and guidance from the staff and other artists to improve his artwork.

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