More Than You Know: The Challenges Those With Disabilities Face
In my last article, I shared some of my challenges and concerns regarding looking for a job, and as promised, I am going to share with you my journey on my own job hunt and all that it entails. I will also be sharing the story of Keely who is disabled as well. First things first.
My journey is a little different. Being a writer requires a whole different kind of job search, and most are aware that you don’t just write your first article or book and make money. It can be a grueling process that almost seems unattainable. Still, each day writers from around the world set out to achieve their dream of actually making a living at writing. Until then, it is necessary to find a “normal” job to pay the bills. This is where I am at today.
Being visually impaired, one of the greatest challenges I face in my job hunt is transportation. Although I live in the heart of Southern California in Los Angeles, where we live there is no accessible transportation. The closest bus stop is about two miles away on an unwalkable road, so my job search area is narrowed tremendously. The price of Taxis or Ubers add up quickly, and I would rather not spend my entire paycheck on using them.
So with the limit of my job search area, finding a job becomes more difficult. The world of possibilities has been brought down to just a small area or finding something remotely. Now, the next matter at hand is applying for a job which has a challenge within itself. Do I disclose my visual impairment?
This is something I have chosen not to do in the application process, and not at all if it will not affect my ability to do the job. I have chosen to do this because my past experiences have shown I don’t get a fair chance when I do so. I once applied for a job and had two very successful interviews. I was given the impression that the job was all but mine. Then in passing, I had mentioned my visual impairment. A couple days later I received a letter stating they chose to go in a different direction. Coincidence? Maybe, but highly unlikely.
My visual impairment is virtually undetectable unless I say something about it or have to look closely at something. By looking at me or even knowing me for a little while wouldn’t give it away, so my ability to not disclose to a future employer wouldn’t raise any red flags in the beginning.
Then there is the issue of not disclosing and them finding out after I had been hired. This could be grounds for termination because I wasn’t completely forthcoming. It I sort of a catch-22 situation. So, my inner struggle continues; to disclose or not disclose is the question.
I have an advantage over others with a disability with my visual impairment being invisible. What about those who have a physical disability they can’t hide? Well first, I don’t think they should ever have to, be reality says something different. How can they deal with the prejudices they face?
This is where Keely comes in. I could not think of a better person to answer this question. Keely Messino is a beautiful, creative, highly intelligent young woman who is a force to be reckoned with. In the short time I have known her as a colleague at Coffee House Writers, I have come to know the inner personal strength she possesses. Knowing Keely is to love her because of her spirit.
Keely was born with a traumatic brain injury which has impaired her ability to move, see clearly and has affected her visual processing skills. Going into an interview for her is much different than it is for me. When I asked her what was one of the biggest challenges she faced when looking for a job, her response was what I think most with a disability would have said.
“My biggest challenge finding a job is probably, the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act isn’t necessarily something, that’s situational it’s set for standard.” She goes on to share that when she worked for a well-known big box store, she needed a particular chair to sit in. Their response was shocking. “They wouldn’t get it, they said this is our “ADA stool” if you can’t do it you can’t work here,” she explained.
Hearing this made me cringe. My big mouth would have told them where they could shove their chair, but back to the point. This is a problem for many of those who face challenges in the workplace. Whether it be a larger computer screen, a chair to sit on, or something else to allow one with a disability to complete the tasks for their job. It doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of doing the job. It just means they need to do it a different way.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t normally disclose when applying for a job. Some situations are different, and for Keely it is necessary. Keely shares her reasons as to why. “I typically tell them right away, at least about my medical concerns because if I do have to take time off they need to be aware that that’s something I need that is considered “reasonable accommodation” so they have to honor it.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place to make sure there those with disabilities were treated fairly. Unfortunately, there is such a broad definition of what accommodations are and it should be more specific to allow for individual needs. The Disabilities Act needs to be amended.
Situations like Keely experienced are all too common. What is also a common factor for many looking for, or working at, a job is feeling judged because of their disability. This is one of my biggest fears and insecurities when looking for a job. Keely shares the same insecurity. Each of us wants and deserves to be accepted and respected whether or not we have a disability. This should not be an issue any of us have to face, but unfortunately, it is out there and there is not much we can do about it.
Although I would love to give some magic answers about ways to get through the job search and hiring process, my biggest hope is that through my series, some may find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their struggles.
Let me leave you with this thought: We think of those with disabilities as those affected by a physical ailment, but what about those who are considered disabled from a mental health standpoint? Something to think about until next time.