The Barriers to Employment I Face as a Wheelchair User
I agonized over writing this. I came to terms with the reality of my life a long time ago, and on the whole I like my life. But there’s a problem in my life and the lives of people like me that needs to be addressed, and I’ve had about enough.
Like many people, I’ve been struggling to find a job as of late. Well to be more accurate, I’ve struggled to find a job since graduating from university in 2015. This isn’t through lack of trying. I’ve had numerous interviews both in person and over the phone. I’ve applied for mostly admin positions as I feel like my life and business experience suits such a job. I have my degree in Creative Writing and English, I’ve volunteered in an admin position for a local boxing club (for whom I wrote various articles and fight reviews), and I’m currently volunteering as a digital champion, helping local people get online and become comfortable with computers. Yet there’s one barrier to entry when it comes to finding a job for me and it’s something I can’t control. I’m a wheelchair user.
I’ve been told to specifically omit the fact I’m disabled on my CV because that increases my chances of a call back. When I let my prospective employer know, I’ve been left with various excuses ranging from, “Let me call you back, “We’ve found someone more qualified,” “It turns out our venue isn’t suitable,” to “We have stairs but we don’t have a lift.” When in interviews I’ve asked whether the offices have disabled toilet facilities and been told they were being utilized as a filing cabinet. An organization designed to aid people in my position has no lift, so I am unable to use their computers to search for jobs or improve my CV. As a result, my “consultations” were 15 minutes of “Did you apply for jobs?” “Yes.” “Great, see you next week.” Repeat ad nauseam.
Disability rights have improved a lot since I was a child, and I’ve been lucky enough to see things getting better for myself and the next generation, but it is hard not to feel like a second class citizen in a first world country. It’s a sad reality that as soon as an employer hears the word “disabled,” they often see a challenge or a cost to their business, rather than an asset, despite how intelligent or “right for the job” the person might be.
I’ve resigned myself to these aspects of my life and my attitude right now is, “If a job comes along, great. If it doesn’t, oh well.” But only four years after graduating from university, I shouldn’t be to a point where I have given up on myself through no fault of my own.
People wonder why I decided to throw myself into my writing at the beginning of the year, and the answer is simple: I control my writing journey. The barriers faced by the writing community and your ability to surmount them rest on your talent and hard work rather than physical advantages or disadvantages. The success of my writing is down to me and rather than being made to feel like a failure or give up in frustration, I’ve found communities of friends and loved ones who support me wholeheartedly and in turn I support them.
It’s 2019. Disabled people shouldn’t be barred from living their lives or contributing to society because of antiqued laws, unfit buildings or outdated prejudices.
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Getty image by Tadamichi.