Job hunting is never pleasant. There’s the seemingly endless process of setting up profiles on every job-hunting website in existence, and adding your CV only to be asked to type the same information out on separate forms over and over again. There’s the constant onslaught of emails and phone calls from recruiters paid to give you any job, no matter how unsuitable said job might be for you. Then there’s the seemingly endless of streams of rejected applications and interviews, leaving the most confident among us feeling like a mere commodity. And then there’s disability.
As a wheelchair user, certain jobs wouldn’t work; supermarket shelf-stocking, bartending, building, landscaping, plumbing etc. Many cases of disability also limit physical activity, so out goes careers involving lots of physical work in the emergency services or certain performance arts. Not all disabilities can have sports adapted to make them playable. Jobs that could be performed sitting down such as computer-based work and administration were about the only ones suitable for my needs, but thanks to a growing technology industry and push to go paper-free, these are plentiful.
The next limiting factor was the commute; distance, terrain, and transport all effect this. Trains are notorious for their inability to provide ramps, even when pre-booked, and many stations request that you arrive half an hour before your train is due to depart or risk losing the support, meaning a late or cancelled train could screw up an entire journey, leaving me stranded. This is too risky to be considered for a daily commute. Taxi companies also refuse to guarantee a wheelchair taxi at a set time, but thankfully the accessibility of buses has greatly improved over the past few years, so travelling around the local area was a somewhat more viable option.
Then came the biggest hindrance of them all; inaccessibility. Many people point out that inaccessibility is very much illegal, but the law makes no difference when it is not policed or acted upon. Personally, I applied for many office jobs in the local area only to be told that they weren’t accessible. In fairness they were always apologetic, but failed to grasp that they were one of many telling me the same, leaving me with an increasingly shrinking pool of employees to choose from. What I found particularly disappointing was that recruiters were rarely able to tell me whether an employer was accessible to begin with, and were completely unprepared to address any concerns I had in this matter.
Due to the difficulties discussed above, I didn’t specify factors such as whether the work was temporary or permanent, salaried or paid by the hour, and how much I would earn when searching for jobs. I applied for roles in fields I knew almost nothing about including pensions and re-mortgaging. I managed to land ten interviews in the space of a month, predominantly thanks my experience working in the NHS, but I was faced with rejection after rejection after rejection. Unsurprisingly, I was feeling pretty depressed with the state of affairs, and it’s quite possible that this began to show in my interviews.
Yet I’m one of the lucky ones, who eventually, after much misery and frustration, landed a job with a lucrative contract, that I would enjoy doing, and that most importantly of all was accessible. I know many other disabled people whose searches have remained fruitless, or who have given up altogether. Disabled people are constantly compared to their abled counterparts in terms of cost and efficiency, and have to prove themselves to a greater extent than others do.
Emma has her own blog, Diary of a Disabled Person, where she writes about anything and everything relating to disability, both good and bad. You can find it here: www.diaryofadisabledperson.blog
Find her on Facebook @DiaryofaDisabledPerson and Twitter @WheelsofSteer.