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This article is a confession of my recent conduct when applying for work.
The typical behaviour of many employers, recruiters and interviewers towards disabled job applicants is still discriminatory—and this treatment is what still happens EVERY DAY despite the protective equality-linked legislation in place and moral duty of care that is meant to be shown towards the disabled people in society today. The only difference is how much more sneaky the employers are at not getting prosecuted or held responsible for it.
With more than 20 years work experience and good references, I also keep my skills sharp with ongoing independent training. I can work easily in a busy office or alone, on a consulting basis due to my skills level. In December 2013, I became ill very suddenly, and was diagnosed two months later with an auto-immune illness; with symptoms including three bowel disorders, a compromised immune system and constantly inflamed joints—so now I need crutches to get around and have to know where the nearest loo is at all times.
If I cannot work I am seen as a burden by others. I am willing to work but not being allowed to by employers and interviewers—who have explained to me one more than one occasion that making the 'reasonable adjustments' required under the equality act is a burden on them. This is complete and utter bollocks. The adjustments for me would cost £0.00—absolutely nothing at all because work environments in the locations I applied to have to be accessible by law already. All I need is to have my desk as close to the disabled toilet as possible. I am willing to work extra hours (at no cost to the employer) to make sure I still get all my share of the work done—if it's one of those days when my symptoms are worse.
My experience and qualifications seem to be irrelevant as the employers I meet seem more interested in their employees looking the same—looking 'normal.' It seems to be imperative that disabled folks like me not be seen by the public and appear ugly because we need to use crutches a wheelchair.
My Travel Consultant Interview
A few months ago, I was assured by recruitment staff for a large travel company that they have an 'inclusion policy' at their company, and that I could apply there without worry of prejudice.
This bit of the article is where I tell you what was said by a retail travel manager when I turned up for an interview.
I confess that I am not sorry for exposing the actions of my 'recruiter' in front of other applicants and customers in the store, and do not regret my actions in the slightest.
This travel company had several positions open. The jobs I applied for were seated positions dealing with customers making bookings, processing travel documents or doing shifts in the currency exchange.
I prepared my applications—but did TWO applications for each position advertised.
In the first application for each job I did not declare my disability (it was optional on the form), and in the second application for each branch I declared my disability but stated in the space provided, that I could easily manage in those work environments and within the working practice guidelines stated in the company HR inclusion policy.
The forms were by online submission. I clicked 'send'.
I do not lie. I'm not kidding here—this actually happened to me.
All 4 applications were responded to within ten minutes of online submission. (Remember—two applications for each job advertised)
Can you guess what happened?
The ONLY difference in the two applications for each job was me ticking a box on the form which notified them that I am disabled, not even anything about the type of illness or disability.
In response to the applications where I declared my disability, I was told that the other applicants had more experience, and that they couldn't hire me at this time.
In response to the applications where I did not declare my disability, I was told the same CV showed some very useful experience and I was invited to the next stage in the recruitment process—a group interview.
Laughing—I quickly confirmed the time and date given for me to attend the group interview before they realised what they had done!
Considering the evidence, I can only conclude that ticking the box next to the word 'disabled' made all the relevant work experience on application form magically disappear or become invisible to the recruiter.
I did not reply or ask for further clarification to the rejection email at this time. Instead, I ordered a nice suit for my group interview.
The following week I got the bus to Glasgow Fort early, so that I could go for a cuppa and try to dispel any nerves before attending the interview.
I was greeted very cheerfully by one of the staff on arrival, and we chatted about the summer weather being so lovely. She complimented my suit, saying she had one in a different colour and loved it. The conversation felt very positive until I explained I was there for the group interview and had been instructed to sign in at the branch front desk on arrival...
Her expression changed, she looked at my crutches, then at the names on the list on the desk, found my name and then the following conversation happened:
She asked, "Did you have a fall? Is that why you are on crutches?"
I said, "No, I am disabled."
She then asked, "Did you know the interviews are for a position here in the shop, with customers?"
I said, "Yes."
Next she asked, "Did you tick the disabled box on the application form?"
I said, "The info on the form said it was 'optional' to answer that question as it was in the 'equality section' so I didn't tick the box as I thought I could be discriminated against."
She suddenly started looking very worried. A supervisor saw her reaction and approached, and spoke to me directly, "Can I help?"
I explained again that I was invited to attend the group interview and was told to sign in on arrival, but there seemed to be some kind of issue with me being disabled. They both stepped away from the desk and there seemed to be some very stressed whispering going on. Smiling sweetly, I reached over the counter, picked up the folder on the desk and put my signature in the box next to my name. From their behaviour I already knew I wouldn't get put through from the group to the next stage of the recruitment process but decided to stay for it anyway to see how uncomfortable I could make them. LOL!!!
The supervisor came over and asked me the same questions AGAIN about working face-to-face with customers while being disabled and not just temporarily on my crutches.
I carried on smiling, daring her to slip up and openly admit me being disabled was unsightly until she clammed up mid-sentence and told me to go sit with the others.
As in previous recruitment assessments (I've done loads over the years)—in this interview I was told I got higher marks on the assessments than most of the others, I had relevant experience, good references and was available for work within a fortnight. The applicants that got put through to the next stage of the recruitment process had NO travel-related or tourism work experience, and some even had no work experience at all—were coming straight from school, ditching college to work, while others were looking for a step up from shelf-stacking positions a monkey could do—all while the advert clearly stated that relevant work experience was both important and necessary.
Two girls sat next to me asked for feedback about their assessment mistakes and the manager agreed to email feedback to them—I asked the same and was told that this company don't normally provide feedback. She said I could re-apply in six months again, but to, "Please make sure I ticked the disabled box next time, okay?"
She actually had the nerve to try and look smug—like I was the one who had been caught out doing something wrong—when SHE, and her staff were the ones blatantly discriminating against disabled applicants in public!
This is the point in proceedings where I confessed to the interviewer—and told her about my duplicate applications and how I had been rejected at application stage PURELY for ticking the box next to the word DISABLED.
I showed her my copies—and proved that the ONLY difference in the forms was my admission of being disabled. I asked how it was possible to have loads of relevant experience and not enough relevant experience at the same time?
I had the bitch—I had totally caught her out.
She opened her mouth and no sounds came out. This was my favourite tumbleweed moment of the week... LOL!
I finally broke the awkward silence and said, "Discrimination's a bitch, huh?"—grabbed my crutches and left—giggling to myself, while she struggled to string a few words together.