Disabled people deserve to be hired.
We deserve to be hired. Not because we’re disabled, because we’re qualified.
I used to be embarrassed to talk about it because it made me feel like a failure. But, I’ve learned that I’m not the only one that struggles with this.
Finding employment when you’re disabled is nothing short of trying to win the Tri-Wizard Tournament: a feat to behold, especially considering disabled people are amongst one of the most unemployed minorities. Why is that?
Before giving it a go, I thought, it can’t be that hard, can it? I’ll just roll in with my black pumps and as my mom says, little house on the prairie, button up, collared shirt and dazzle the interviewer with my intuitive fruition and witty intelligence. That was, until I started the tedious process of job hunting after college, which was two years ago. I have a degree in rehab services (disability advocacy) and soon realized that many jobs in my field were not jobs I could apply for. For example, many rehab counseling / behavioral therapy jobs require that you have a driver’s license and the ability to travel to a client’s home. I can’t drive a car or enter a client’s house unless it’s accessible so, all those were immediately crossed off the list.
I started pumping out resume by resume to different job openings, dropping distinguished names, appearing in person to introduce myself after applying, and nothing. Having an impressive resume with an internship under my belt, I was blissfully oblivious to what I was about to experience when I graduated in regards to trying to get a damn job. It also didn’t help that my supervisor gave me a freaking glowing final review, saying I was the best intern they’ve ever had. I was positive I’d get hired right away.
It’s funny how life works.
After moving to Chicago to pursue my career, I went on a few interviews and was not hired at any of them. I’m the last to say discrimination, but that’s what it felt like, as I was more than qualified for every job I applied to. I began to feel defeated, as all my friends were getting hired right away and my bills were piling up. The panic set in and I did what you shouldn’t do: gave up. I fell off for a little bit when I discovered my love for blogging, taking cute photos, and marketing. Long story short, we are here, right now. Two years later I have built my platform on social media by sharing my life with a disability and advocating which translated into a prosperous (ish) business where I get to create content and products that I’m truly passionate about. The only person I have to answer to is myself, and I don’t have to stress about disability job accommodations, and fatigue in the workplace. I can take breaks when needed and work at my own pace.
Looking back, I can’t see myself doing anything else. I’m thankful for all the people that didn’t have enough faith in me to hire me and see what a dope asset I could have been to their organization. Your loss.
While my story has a happy ending, others do not. Disabled people are often stigmatized for not having a job and are called lazy or that we are using up tax dollars and are a strain on the system. What’s a strain on the system is all the more than qualified disabled people that can’t get a job due to workplace ableism.
If you’re reading this and are an employer: disabled people are smart, resourceful, educated, and an asset. We want jobs and more importantly, we deserve a chance. Think about that next time you decide to write off a disabled job applicant and tell them you hired someone “more qualified.”
If you’re disabled and are having a hard time finding a job, don’t give up. Be persistent. Be confident, and show that interviewer the true hard working baddie you are. Or screw them all off like I did and use your creativity to became an entrepreneur. Either way, you’ll find your way.
I hope by reading this, some light can be shed on how difficult it is for disabled people to find jobs and we can, in turn, start hiring more disabled baddies and reduce the stigma around government assistance to non-employed disabled people.
Understanding begins with empathy. Put yourself in someone’s shoes. You could learn a lot by this simple practice we all need to do more of.