there is much more to it than meets your eye…January 6 | 2016
whenever it comes to the topic of hiring individuals with disabilities, we pretty much stumble upon the same myths, distorted realities and misconceptions on both sides of the fence for years, if not decades. There are plenty of causes and institutions trying to fight the stereotypes, yet it seems that changes are coming too slowly. Why is that? I’ll try to examine it in this article. I will be focussing on visual impairment, but it may be applied to other disabilities as well. when abled people encounter people with disabilities, they often assume that being disabled automatically means a hard and unhappy life.
if we take a look at the media representation in some western countries, the landscape doesn’t look appealing either. On one extreme, people are being portrayed as weak, sad, ill and incapable. The goal is to make the viewer pity them and provoke some kind of reaction. This tactic is often used in advertising in order to raise funds for charities. The other extreme is hyping very rare cases of successful disabled individuals portrayed as the disabled geniuses, instead of the geniuses who happens to be disabled. The realities are not as exciting though, it’s rather a confusing to find a place in society.
many employers have concerns when it comes to hire a disabled individual. In their eyes, it’s seen as a burden. They often assume that people with disabilities will cost them, that they’ll call in sick more often and can’t get their job done on time/accurately. In some western countries, visually impaired professionals with degrees, who are skilled and confident often have to justify themselves in job interviews on how they managed to get that far, yet almost never hearing back from the potential employer ever again. Despite quotas, diversity strategies and other law regulations, not all employers are willing to drop their misconceptions. Even those disabled people who get a job are often underpaid, have to work below their qualification or are otherwise taken advantage of. Since the opportunities to change jobs are much smaller than for abled people, many stay on welfare, end up in bad jobs or sheltered workshops, becoming increasingly miserable over time.
however, not all hope is lost. There are different places with decent employers, who have an open mind and treat everyone with respect. Of course they might not know how to handle a disabled individual if they never met one. Naturally, this can cause insecurities on both sides. The ways to get a job done may vary, but if a disabled individual can do things their way, good results are guaranteed. However, it might not always fit into the typical 9-5-model, which requires trust from the higher-ups along with a very clear and direct approach from the disabled individual. He/she must be able to communicate their needs and capabilities accordingly. Charities and organizations can help by teaching the right skills to reach the desired goal and/or advocate so that people with disabilities get a chance to show what they can do, not what they can’t do.