The anxiousness I feel when preparing for a job interview starts long before I walk through the office doors of my potential employer. The first worry I have is whether or not the work environment is accessible and how my potential boss is going to react to finding out that I have a physical disability.
I have always been a very independent person, and have never been ashamed of the cards that I’ve been dealt, but that doesn’t stop other people from having misconceptions or hesitations abut hiring me. If I can actually get in the door and prove to them that I would be a good fit for that company, great, but if the building itself isn’t accessible, then I don’t even get that chance.
Recently I sat in on a lecture presented by David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and it gave me hope that issues just like this one are finally being addressed. As the first disabled Lieutenant Governor in history, he hopes to show the people of the province as well as Canada as a whole that accessibility is about more than ramps and powered doors.
“By accessibility I mean far more than curb cuts and all the things we have come to know as being symbolized by the white wheelchair sign on the blue background. Accessibility is that which enables people to achieve their full potential,” Onley said.
Even in such a position of power as he is, Onley still had to overcome obstacles: Queen’s Park, the office where he would be working out of was not equipped with an elevator prior to his arrival.
The obstacles I face before going to an interview are not always physical. Whether on purpose or through no fault of their own, the attitudes that a potential employer has towards all forms of disabilities are really what could make or break the interview.
It is sad to think that there are people out there who make such quick assumptions about someone with even the most stellar of qualifications, but it happens, and it’s a harsh reality that I have come to accept. I have learned to work my hardest to change their minds; even if I shouldn’t have to.
I let the potential employer know of what my needs will be, but I show them that in no way do I let my disability get me down, and in no way will it affect my job performance. In journalism, however, sometimes my disability does get in the way. With a heavy amount of travel involved, it always takes more planning, but as long as the employer is flexible, anything can be done just in a different way.
I find focusing on my disability too much on the day of the interview can be a huge hindrance on my mental state as well as how I am perceived. Most people who know me well often say they sometimes forget that I have a disability at all and I think that if you can get an employer to believe that, you’re in. Just be yourself and if you’re not hired, then it’s probably not because of your disability.
Sometimes I find it very easy to use my disability as my reason for not being hired because it’s easy to blame something or someone that you have no control over, but that’s something I try not to do often.
Having a disability presents unique challenges when trying to find a job and with the interview being the most important process it is important to have your needs met, but not have your disability take centre stage. Keep an open mind, be prepared and have patience and the right job will come your way.
After all, people with disabilities all over the world could make up the third largest nation, and in that there is a lot of money to be made, says Onley. “We should be doing all we can to make society accessible not because it’s the nice thing to do, or as I said earlier it’s the right thing to do, but because it also happens to make economic sense, increasing the independence of people with disabilities also means increasing their spending power,” he says. jp