January 21, 2002
By Richard Craver, BUSINESS EDITOR
Looking for a good job is daunting enough in good times. It's even more difficult when the Triad is front and center of the state's struggle with a 17-year-high unemployment rate.
And when you are one of the 1,600 Triad residents dealing with multiple sclerosis, a tightening labor market makes finding a job even harder.
The Central N.C. chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is holding a Feb. 12 seminar at Embassy Suites in Greensboro to assist anyone with MS in finding gainful employment.
Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative condition marked by patches of hardened tissue in the spinal cord or the brain. The disease is particularly devastating because it typically strikes people between ages 25 and 50, considered the prime moneymaking and family-raising years.
In Guilford County alone, more than 500 people were diagnosed with MS as of last August, said Mark Scheerer, the chapter's program director. There were 418 in Forsyth County, 125 in Davidson County and 91 in Randolph County.
Many people with MS are capable of working in environments that allow for rest periods and modified work settings, such as with computers or new technology, Scheerer said.
But some potential employees choose not to work because of the potential cost to their overall quality of life.
"For some people with MS, the money isn't necessarily worth it if they get so exhausted at work that all they can do when they get home is eat and go right to sleep," Scheerer said.
While MS hinders its victims in different ways on different days, most people looking for work understand their limitations and focus on the skills that allow them to be productive.
"MS is a hidden disease for most people, and they don't necessarily want to disclose their disability because of fear that people may think less of them," Scheerer said.
"But they do want to be as independent with their lifestyle as any one of us, and that includes financial independence."
That's why part-time employment, coupled with their Social Security benefits, is a viable option for them, he said.
The free seminar is designed primarily for people with MS and will be conducted by program counselor Pat Davis. The chapter can field employer questions about hiring people who have MS.
Scheerer said there are many Social Security Administration programs available to people with MS that allow them to work and still not exceed the $700-a-month income level that would compromise benefits.
"With the competition for jobs getting tighter, we just wanted to make sure this segment of the work force doesn't get squeezed out."
Richard Craver can be contacted at
©High Point Enterprise 2002