Barriers to Employment

One in 5 Americans has a disability from what I’ve read in a book and online.

In the RespectAbility internet article one woman wasn’t getting job offers. She disclosed on interviews that she had a disability. After not getting job offers, she stopped disclosing to hiring managers.

Having an invisible disability is no better. Given the choice to “pass for normal” would you want to? A friend pointed out that a lot of peers don’t want to hide in a closet for the rest of their lives like gay people who pretended they were straight.

“This is part of who I am” is the war cry of many people living with disabilities.

The term used is ableism to refer to how outsiders view a disability as a liability that is aberrant.

Unlike a lot of disability rights activists, I’m okay with being called “courageous” and “inspirational” in the face of adversity. This won’t win me any fans.

To people who use wheelchairs, for instance, rolling around is a normal part of their lives.

What do I think?

The interview is a sales pitch for how you can solve an employer’s need with your service. You want to “close the sale” and get a Yes in the form of a job offer.

As a candidate across the desk, you wouldn’t dwell on deficits and drawbacks.

Sadly, this is how having a disability is perceived: as a limitation on what a person can do.

I have a Visionary archetype. As a Visionary, I had the audacity to think a person with a mental illness could hold a job. In spring 2022 my goal is to publish the book Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers – Finding and Succeeding at a Job When You Live with a Mental Ilness.

How to risk identifying as a having a disability:

If you’re compelled to be honest you must frame having a disability as giving you the mindset, creative problem-solving skills, and competitive edge to get results for the company. Try quoting the following statistics to make this case:

            A 2018 Accenture study revealed that firms with the best practices in hiring individuals with disabilities saw:

  • Twenty-eight percent higher revenue
  • Double the net income
  • Thirty percent higher profit margins

On average over a four-year period.

I talked about this Accenture study in a prior blog entry.

The fact is that a businessperson might be thinking about the increased health insurance costs that a staff member with a disability could incur.

How to prove you’re a capable and competent worker to a hiring manager in a half-hour interview?

It’s obvious to those of us living with a hardship that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

A lot of us have grit, strength, and resilience in the face of adversity. How could we not perform better than lazy coworkers or rude coworkers or entitled coworkers?

This is obvious to me. On one interview I went on over 11 years ago the HR person asked me: What hardship did you experience that made you who you are today?”

Sorry, talking about having had a breakdown when I was 22 wasn’t the answer I gave. I talked about what it was like when I was 22 and my grandfather was in a coma hooked up to a respirator in the ICU.

Having a mental health issue or diagnosis is [intractably] not seen as a selling point.

Not that any illness should be more acceptable than another. Every illness should be seen as an ordinary part of the life of a person living with a disability.

Folks: I don’t live in hiding. Google me and the truth is out there: in my memoir Left of the Dial, in my blogs, and on my website.

In the coming blog entry, I’m going to review the book Disability Visibility. Twenty-first century voices talking about living with a disability.

Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and athlete.

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