Posted in Albinism, Blindness, and Me, Overcoming Adversity

What Will You Choose?

As my current job search wears on, I am faced with the never ending array of job applications and personality tests, hoping in vain that they don’t get lost in Cyberspace and get picked up by an actual human being who will take the tine to read it. 

You type and you type, pecking at the keyboard the same information you put down the last 30 plus times on yet another form. Then come the survey questions 

  • What is your sex?
  • Are you 18 or older?
  • What is your race/ethnicity?
  • Are you a veteran?

And then you get this and all of the sudden, you feel like you’re face to face with Wayne Brady on Lets Make A Deal, you’re destiny determined by one answer. 

The Disability Status Question. It’s worded in many ways and presents itself different , or sometimes its skipped over altogether. But that question could very well be the deal breaker between a callback for an interview, or another rejection letter. 

There are many outcomes that can come out of this based on what happens. This particular app has a disclosure saying they won’t use it against you, but given I work in a Right To Work state where discrimination in some degree is legal, I can’t take the chance.

  • If I answered Yes, I have a Disabilty– This could very well lead to an instant throw away of an application, as I have seen many times in the past. Unlike the race, sex, or veteran status, the stigma is very fresh in people’s minds. The Americans With Disabilities Act is only about 26 years old and its most recent amendments were added less than 8 years ago. Seeing how fresh the movement for basic civil rights and opportunities is, there are plenty of employers that are afraid of the unknown. Many are worried about their image of the company or believe people with disabilities are a liability, a risk that nobody wants to take on. Can the legally blind girl count money? What about that guy in the wheelchair, can he operate a box cutter safely? And how would customers react to the deaf Barista at Starbucks? These fears and more is what cripple the opportunities for the disabled to grow beyond what society deams acceptable employment. Some employers may use this as a tax write-off, where others might see hiring as a way to earn kudo points with the community. Those are the wrong reasons to hire somebody with a disability. Whatever happened to going by abilities first? 
  • If I answered No, I do not have a disability – I am fortunate enough to be able to hide my disability to a point. Aside for my thick glasses, you can’t really tell. But when you factor in fluorescent lighting issues or extremely small print, that’s when it comes apparent that I might need a little help. I could only hide it for so long to a point where someone would notice. Lying on the application would just lead to more problems. And could potentially lead to termination if my needs aren’t disclosed.
  • If I answered I prefer not to answer– the same scenario above will play out the same way. To a potential interviewer or hiring manager, seeing this answer could raise red flags as to whether or not the candidate is truthful. This could potentially throw the whole application out, thus making all that progress on the application worth nothing.

    Potential employers have this fear of what they don’t know, and in some ways, I can’t say I blame them. You don’t know what a person is capable of until you see them in action and the only way to see someone in action is to hire them. What company is going to invest in training the employee for something they might not be able to do? 

    But then again, shouldn’t you be worried about the abled bodied candidates as well? If you think about it hard enough, everybody is a liability upon hiring. I can’t tell you how many trainees in my previous job were transferred or sent home because they couldn’t learn the computer systems, not because they were disabled, just because they simply weren’t tech savvy. And these were able-bodied people, with no disabilities. 

    These particular set of doors in this game called life are ones nobody should have to fear, employer or potential employee included.

    You would think 26 years would have made adequate progress, but I believe more needs to be done so everyone can have an opportunity without fear of answering such a question.

    What door will you choose? How would you answer this question? And what do you believe the result might be?

    Only one way to find out. 

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    4 thoughts on “What Will You Choose?

    1. Very good post. I have only filled out two applications in my life upon finishing college. Wal-Mart to be a door greeter. I did not pass the questionnaire at the end of that application, and then I applied for a job at a local hospital, but they said something about their computer system being challenging to work. So, I didn’t get either job.

      To answer your question, I would have to answer the question with Yes, I have a disability. Mine is visible because I use a wheelchair full-time. I also understand what you are saying about the liability issue. I wish it were not that way. It shouldn’t be.

      On top of using a wheelchair due to having Cerebral Palsy, I also received a diagnosis of cancer last November. Ironically, this opened up an opportunity for me. A friend saw potential in me and offered me a receptionist position at her dog grooming shop. Granted, I cannot work during my chemo weeks because of my immune system, but for at least one day during my “off weeks” I have something to look forward to if and when I am needed. I am just thankful someone decided to take a chance and let me feel like I had a purpose in this world at a time when I may have felt I had none.

      Good luck on your continued job search. I hope the best for you!

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    2. I have experienced this dilemma with both jobs and medical school. I applied to medical school last year, but didn’t get in. All of my coworkers and professors in college were surprised that I didn’t get in because I had good grades, MCAT, community involvement, etc. I graduated from college at age 20. I sent one of my letter writers my old personal statement for editing, and he basically told me that admissions committees were hesitant to offer interviews for applicants who had anything that seemed “off” about their application and to focus less on my Asperger’s diagnosis.

      I had mentioned my Asperger’s personal statement last year, along with some of my experiences because it plays a huge part in my identity and decision to want to go to medical school. Turns out healthcare is just as ableist as most other employers, granted they take care of disabled people all the time, but god forbid they let anyone with a disability be a doctor themselves. Student doctor network and other med school forums said not to mention Asperger’s in the application.

      Now, I’m in my second gap year working as a medical scribe, making minimum wage hoping to get more clinical experience, while my abled colleagues who often asked me for advice with academic stuff all got in. I mentioned nothing about my disability when I was hired for this company, but I had mentioned it in a company I applied to previously where I wasn’t hired. I reapplied to medical school this year to completely different schools with no mention of my disability to see what happens. Hopefully I can get in and pull the sticks out the admission committee’s salty, ableist a**es.

      Overall, I read an article on the topic of disabled students missing out on getting into med school, even with the scores and experience because we don’t qualify as underserved in medicine, and that society “has a very high expectation of doctors to be perfect while simultaneously having very low expectations for people with disabilities.” Pretty much sums it up sadly.

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