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When Someone With a Disability Interviews for Your Job Opening

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OK employers, let’s chat.

I know most companies have policies that say “We do not discriminate, we are an equal opportunity business” and all that jazz. But in reality, do you?

I and I’m absolutely sure many others with physically and mental disabilities have worked hard to get an education and try to become active members of society. I have worked extra hard to prove to myself and others that I can have a stable career and despite hurdles and life potholes that get in my way.

It’s sad to admit that being 38 years old, I’ve only had one job that I haven’t had to know a friend of a friend that knew your grandma. I get tons of phone calls, emails and phone interviews and the tone of voice is always positive, until I arrive for the in-person interview. All I feel is the piercing glares at my right arm. Even though you try to hide it, I can see your wheels turning with all the questions. How is she going to do the tasks? How much adapting is she going to need? How much is this going to cost me? Etc.

Body language says more to me than your words during an interview. My right hand is useless unless you want a hook for hanging bags or coats on. I get it, it’s a shock (even though it shouldn’t be) to see me and I don’t match what you had envisioned in your mind while you were speaking to me on the phone. When you go to shake my hand and see my hook hand, do not reach out your left hand to shake my right hand. It doesn’t work, it looks awkward when I put out my left hand and I can assure you that in my head I am thinking “Does this person think I am a princess? I knew I should have worn my tiara.”

I have gotten used to the email form letters:

Dear Miss Mary,

You were one of the final candidates for the job but we have decided upon another person. We will keep your resume on file… blah.

At this rate, a billion companies have my resumes on file and no one has ever called me back.

My last formal job was a call center. I knew someone so I got the job. I got sick and discovered I could no longer be “tied” to a desk by headphones for eight hours without being in total pain. After trying to work with HR (who were actually great) I decided that the job and I weren’t a great fit anymore when one day I realized I was trying to hold back tears of pain while interacting with a customer on the phone.

Since then, I have been on a trillion interviews in my career line of work where I wouldn’t be chained to a desk and I can move freely when needed with little luck. Right now I am doing work at home, build your own business jobs which are great if you weed out all the scammy companies. But like most people with disabilities, I’d much rather be working in a much more stable paycheck environment.

I have worked so hard to prove I am much more than a status quo. Please, the next time someone comes into your organization for an interview who may happen to have a disability, think about how much they can offer your company, not how much “work” or money it will cost to have them work there. Give them a chance if their resume matches what you are looking for. They may surprise you.

Getty image by Aleutie.
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