Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

The Life and Times of a Disabled Job Seeker

By Donna J. Jodhan

At the best of times, job seeking can be one of the most tedious, frustrating, and nerve racking processes but for a disabled person it can be doubly difficult.

It does not matter whether the economy is good or bad, the trials and difficulties for a disabled job seeker remain the same. The excuses are the same, the reasons for rejection of disabled applicants continue to be the same, and the unemployment statistics continue to hover over the 80%mark. At least,
that is the statistic that we hear when it comes to North America but for the rest of the world it is probably the same and in the developing world it is even greater.

Shocker or shaker! Neither! Just very sad!

I myself was a job seeker with a disability at one time and I can tell you that based on my experience and those of many others, it is a very rugged and scary road for any job seeker with a disability. Even when the economy is good, things are the same and now that we are in difficult times, the road to a job for any disabled job seeker is extremely bleak. Some times it seems as if the forces get together to conspire against us because the excuses and reasons sound so similar. So many employers seem to come up with the same types of reasons and excuses. Something like this:

“We are unable to give consideration to the hiring of a blind person because of the cost to adapt our environment to their access technology.”

“It would cost too much to make our offices accessible to a physically disabled person.”

“Disabled persons cannot work fast enough to be productive.”

“We are in a hiring freeze right now and trying to reduce costs and we would not be able to afford to hire a disabled employee right now.”

When it comes to job seeking or job hunting, a disabled job hunter or job seeker is probably the most seasoned. They are likely to be presented with anything from the most plausible to the most laughable with the latter prevailing most of the time. In hard economic times most employers would probably feel that they can safely get away with excuses such as: Having to cut costs, a hiring freeze in order to save present jobs, and no new projects being worked on due to lack of investment money; but what about when times are good?

In bad economic times these excuses are probably true but in good economic times
they just do not seem to ring true. It is a well documented fact that when most global governments start cutting jobs and services, those directly associated with the welfare of disabled employees are usually the first to be cut and it does not matter whether it is here in Canada, the United States, in Europe, or even in a lesser developed part of the world.

When it comes to having doors slammed in one’s face, the disabled job seeker is probably the one who experiences this the most.
When it comes to being let down by one’s government, the disabled job seeker is the one who suffers the most.

When it comes to being able to depend on the education system to help identify a plausible and rewarding career for the job hunter, the disabled person is the one who is ignored the most. In short, the disabled person
is probably the most disappointed job seeker at the end of the day.

If I may be so bold as to offer this simple suggestion to anyone listening: If you are an employer then you should look at the picture like this. Do not look at it as a duty to accommodate but rather as an opportunity to take advantage of an untapped labour force. Potential workers who are willing and ready to work because they want to work. Potential employees who can be trained, easily motivated, and who are eager to become a part of the workplace.

Give it some serious thought. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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