Glenn Schlemmer

Writing By Timothy Prentiss 

Glenn Schlemmer seems to be happily living a life of mundane bachelorhood.

He lives alone in a mobile home on the southernmost tip of Reno, bikes to work each day and rides the bus home every night. In his free-time, he watches movies and plays video games.

Recently the Customized Employment Project closed Glenn’s case, meaning the program completed its third and final review of his employment placement, and consider the placement, a warehouse position at Arrow Electronics, a success. Glenn participated it the program because he is considered disabled, having been diagnosed as autistic.

When discussing the Customize Employment Project, and employment for the disabled in general, there’s can be a temptation to dwell on those higher concepts: the dignity of work. Inclusion. Empowerment. Self-determination.

We might forget the purpose of working—for the disabled as well as the non-disabled—is to make money. So we can buy things. Buying things is, of course, a form of empowerment. It is a form of self-determination. But such a basic, practical form that it is easily forgotten amidst the pieties of disability advocacy rhetoric.

Advocating for more “inclusion” and “empowerment” is fine of course, but what does that mean on a concrete level? In other words, how exactly will Glenn be exercising his self-determination and empowerment today?

Turns out, by buying either “Hitman: Absolution,” reportedly being released today, or, if Best Buy doesn’t have that yet, a “Call of Duty: Black Ops” installment.

Most of his free-time not spent playing videogames is spent watching movies. His continually expanding DVD collection currently numbers around one hundred. Unfortunately his television, necessary for both the videogames and the movies, is on its way out—with the screen occasionally going completely black. So he has begun saving up for a new flat-screen television. After he gets his new television, he may purchase some cowboy boots. He’s wanted some for a while, and he is, after all, planning to volunteer at the Reno Rodeo again next year.

All these various entertainments and creature comforts are paid for by his job at the Arrow Electronics. Scott Harrington, director of the CEP, claims that Glenn was ideally suited to the position because of his focus and attention to detail. Glenn offers a different, and very brief, account what exactly makes him suitable for the job:

“Just, pretty much, that I love it,” he says.

And it’s close to his house.

From him there is no mention of the job being built around his interests, passions or skills, which isn’t to say he doesn’t enjoy the job, or that he is not good at it (One would assume, based on his having already been promoted after only three months, he more than competent). But rather that his primary concerns are very practical.

“I got health benefits, I got the sick and vacation pay,” he says.

“I’ve been making $400 every Friday,” he adds

Which doesn’t quite cover all his expenses.

His sister still pays some of his bills—phone, cable, and home insurance. While his own paychecks buy his food (teriyaki chicken being his signature dish), feed his DVD and videogame habits, and pay for the mobile home’s space rental. The home itself he inherited when his mother died; a fact which helps explain its oddly feminine décor, with its pillows with floral prints, and curio cabinets filled with dolls and figurines

Still, figurines notwithstanding, his life resembles that of many non-disabled single men of his age. This is the important thing.

As recently as the 1970s, that is, within Glenn’s lifetime, people with autism have been variously treated with electroshock therapy, corporal punishment, even LSD. Even now, a person with autism may likely spend their entire adult life in a mental-health facility.

Glenn, however, will be at home playing videogames this weekend.