Interviewing is the worst. I believe this statement can be true across all kinds of people in the able-bodied community and in the persons with disabilities community. However, I have found interviewing can be especially painful when you have an obvious physical disability. Then people can automatically make judgments based almost solely on preconceived notions and prejudices.
I don’t apply and have never applied to positions that I wasn’t qualified for. I would apply for a position in which I knew I could do at least 70 to 80% of the work as a new employee and learn the rest quickly. I target positions where I have room for growth, plus I know I have adaptive skills and I am a quick learner. So whenever employers view my resume and contact me for an interview via phone or email, I can tell they are interested and they are impressed by my background on my resume. I also don’t fluff my resume because I don’t like to be caught in lies and tend to make a habit of not lying in general. I am one of the most terrible liars out there and I’m OK with this. I also have this problem with authority and not wanting to get in trouble so that may also contribute to my unwillingness to lie. But I digress.
The point is I only ever allow myself to interview for positions in which I know I am qualified. I hate interviewing because whether I walk into the room where the interviewers are already in there or they walk in after me, they quickly and automatically realize I have a physical disability. It has always broken my spirit to see the transformation in their eyes. It’s a physical thing that I think most people don’t even realize occurs. I believe you can even call it “micro aggressive” behavior. It’s like one second they are excited to meet this potential employee/qualified candidate. Then in the next second you know they are not even going to hear what I have to say because the judgments and discriminations have already entered their minds. If I have a physical disability, which clearly I do, how could I possibly perform on the job.
Fun Fact: According to a study done in 13 companies, workers with disabilities had 1.24 fewer scheduled absences.
Let me just inform you, I have never applied for a physically demanding job (aside from retail, but that’s… just retail). All my potential jobs require intellect and I have quite a bit of that. But seeing an employer mentally check out and watching them be checked out through the entire interview is so discouraging and heartbreaking. I don’t even know if I have the adequate words to describe how fucking insulting this is. How dare you. How dare you pass judgment on my intellect and capabilities when you aren’t even hearing me freaking speak. I think sometimes many able-bodied people can be very ignorant because they are so unaware of themselves and the vibes they give off (I just realized how angry I am becoming as I am writing this blog… I am taking a breath and coming down, now).
The issue is I have done this dance so many times and I know many other people with CP or other physical disabilities have been through this atrocious routine . Guess what able-bodied people? We cannot control that we have a physical disability. But you have control over the fact that you are being a judgmental asshole.
I understand that perhaps many able-bodied people have not had much experience with individuals who have physical disabilities and what that actually means as it relates to their intellect and capabilities. It is the whole reason why I am writing blogs. Able-bodied people are the ones in power. They have the hiring power and they have the power to make changes and decisions that could have a positive impact for persons with physical disabilities. I ask the people in power to open your mind and eyes to truly see people with physical disabilities as equal people because that is what they are. Just because our bodies may be different, move differently or react to our environments differently, does not mean our brains and intellect are not equal to your own.
Fun Fact: Employees with disabilities have proven to be dependable, dedicated, hardworking, and productive. In fact, according to one national survey reported in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, many businesses report that the experience of working with people with disabilities increases every employee’s morale and productivity.
And I’m going to go ahead and say it – as a society we have been here so many times before. African Americans fighting for the right to be equal to Caucasian Americans. Females fighting for the right to be equal to males. But people with disabilities who are so marginalized – who is fighting for us? It doesn’t matter if I am up against an African-American woman, and Asian male, a Middle Eastern male, or a Hispanic female. If all these individuals are able-bodied then I am more than likely going to be on the losing side. Just as some people say they don’t see color – which is a pretty fucking ignorant thing to say, everyone and I mean every fucking one sees physical disabilities. Then the negativity begins. This must stop.
Side note: not everyone who sees a physical disability reacts negatively. Some people are open minded. We need more of that open-mindedness and acceptance.
All my friends, my loved ones, and several coworkers have told me that after a while they forget I even have a physical disability. This is because I am so capable of doing things and being independent. Well I am not unique in this manner. I can appreciate when my friends and loved ones say this to me because I know they mean it in a positive way. They no longer see my disability. They only see me as the person I am – for all my attributes, faults, and ridiculousness. They see me and love me as the whole person I am.
There are hundreds of thousands of people with physical disabilities who are just as capable and independent as I am.
Now I think I need to highlight the point of this blog is not to say I should have gotten all of the jobs I’ve been rejected from. Or even to say that I should’ve gotten any of the jobs I’ve been rejected from. There is a big part of me that does believe everything happens for a reason. Thus, I was rejected from all those jobs for a reason and only accepted at specific ones for a reason as well. My point is, for those of you able- bodied individuals who are in positions of power to affect hiring practices, take some time to look at yourself and become aware of your own judgments, prejudices, and microaggressions. The last of these, or all of them, may be difficult to admit you have.
And if you are reading this right now and are continually shaking your head in disagreement then perhaps you need to take a break from reading my blog. Take some breaths and truly examine how you usually/instinctively react to certain types of people. The difficult part (about judgments, prejudices, and microaggressions) is being aware we have them, admitting we have them, and acting in ways to prevent those discriminations and prejudices from coming to the surface. And we all have them in one form or another. Myself included.
I am also not saying that just because you interview a person with a disability you should automatically hire them. All I’m trying to say is please be aware they have as much to offer, if not more, then the next candidate. I say this with extreme confidence because I have always had to work 3 to 4 times as hard as my peers just to prove that I am on an equal level as them. People with disabilities generally feel as if we must compensate for the fact that we have the disability so we often go above and beyond to prove ourselves worthy of being seen as equal. We are equal.
Fun Fact: More than half of accommodations cost nothing.
Listen to what people have to say – listen to what they are saying. We can always tell when you are disinterested. The look is right there in your eyes and often reflects in your behavior towards the candidate. There are little tells, and sometimes big damn-rude tells. Continual sighs or checking your cell phone during the interview. You understand the candidate is sitting in front of you, right? They may have a physical disability, but they are not stupid. When someone blatantly shows their disinterest during the interview it throws me off my game. Some of this I can control, but my muscles tightening because I’m getting more nervous and disheartened due your behavior is not something I can control. Just makes this hell even worse.
We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for a chance. We are also asking for an open mind and for you to truly hear the words describing our capabilities instead of your eyes only seeing the surface of who we are: the physical disability. You must always try to remember that with any given person what you see is only the surface. And if you judge only based on what you can see, you may end up hiring a shitty employee who was pretty damn charming during the interview. Or with an open mind, you may hire someone who is imperfect on the outside but busts their ass to be a successful and contributing employee.
People with disabilities want to be independent, but independence requires a paid job.
Fun Fact: According to a study done by DuPont that included 2,745 employees, 92 percent of employees with disabilities rated average or better in job performance compared to 90 percent of those who did not have disabilities.
Our physical disability may be a part of who we are but it sure as hell does not define who we are.
When I got my current job I had no idea what I was in for. It was like learning an entirely new field even though I’m still in the HR department. There was such a steep learning curve, it felt like I was trying to climb up (or maybe falling down) Mount Everest. But I busted my ass for months to overcome that learning curve. I know I’m a successful and contributing employee.
I know this may have been a tough and perhaps offensive read, but this is life and these behaviors are offensive. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this blog. Thank you.
Until next time.
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