I apologize for the delay in updating this blog. It’s something I’d like to do a bit more frequently but I had started the job hunt once again and have been dealing with that for some time. What I’ve learned from this experience is that few people want to hire crips. Yes, I know, the economy sucks. Perhaps it’s all just in my head. It’s just not possible for a girl in a chair to serve coffee.
Those are excuses. Plain and simple.
I know for a fact that there are a few places that did not hire me purely because I’m a gimp.
Do I have proof? No. All I have are anecdotes.
I go into a CVS and ask a manager if they’re hiring. They tell me no. A few days later there is a ‘Now Hiring’ sign in their window.
I ask a coffee shop if they’re hiring and they tell me no. A few days later an acquaintance tells me about how they’ve been desperately looking for someone.
I get an interview with Victoria’s Secret. They’re pleased that I have retail experience, open hours, and the interview goes terrifically well. I don’t hear from them again, so when I call they lie about changing the week of training and again don’t call me back. I talk to a different manager in person after that and that’s where I find out training was scheduled as usual. I ask for the hiring manager to call me back, so I could see where I went wrong in the interview. I never get a reply. They hired a girl who wore jeans and flip-flops to the same group interview. I wore a suit outfit.
I drop off an application in person to Forever 21. It’s almost a month later before they call me back and leave a message stating that for some reason, my application had been ‘misplaced’ and that they would have called me sooner. I don’t even bother calling them back. I didn’t want to go through the same Victoria’s Secret process all over again.
My favorite anecdote is one from a hotel that I live close to. The Gideon Putnam. I went in person to drop off my resume and fill out an application for a desk clerk position. When I went there, the employees were nice enough to point out a gift shop position that I would be better suited for and that I should come back in a week for the job fair with on-the-spot interviews. I go back the next week, dressed in a professional suit outfit, hair done, nails done, make-up done, etc. while the majority of people are dressed in jeans and yoga pants and t-shirts. The interview goes impossibly quick and I am sent for drug-testing. Everyone assures me that that means I got the job. My drug test is clean, of course. But no one ever calls me back to schedule me to work. After two weeks of silence, I call the Gideon Putnam and they refuse to tell me for certain whether or not I got the job but that someone will call me back to schedule and they tell me not to call again. And so I wait. But there is no phone call.
I begin job hunting again and finally land a job at Hannaford as a cashier. During this time, I head to the doctor’s for a visit (the same place I had my drug test for the Gideon Putnam) and they ask “and are you still working at the Gideon Putnam?” I express surprise and say “No, they never even called me back. I work at Hannaford.” The employee changes the information in my file and the VERY NEXT DAY the Gideon Putnam gives me a call asking if I’m still interested in a job.
Please, tell me that there’s nothing completely fishy going on there.
And now for the good news. I did get hired as a cashier at my local Hannaford. I shop there frequently and most the employees recognize me on the spot. I’ve always had cashiers and baggers listen to my requests and respect my want to take my groceries out myself. The store is more expensive than most, but I get approached less and get less invasive questions.
So when I saw that they were hiring, I dropped off an application, and got an interview. Instead of the interviewer asking me about my disability that asked me what I could do, couldn’t do, and what type of accommodations I would need. They called back within the week and said I definitely had a job. They brought me to the cash registers to see what kind of accommodations I would need.
Within the first week we found that while I can reach everything, things could be done to make it easier and safer for me. They brought in a carpenter, a safety inspector, an ergonomics guy, and the store manager to see what can be done. They’re currently working on adapting an entire register just for me, taking parts out, changing wiring, and adding a ramp and a cushion that I can add to my chair to make me higher.
Do you know what this store is doing? They are taking the phrase “reasonable” and raising the bar for others. By adapting one (and possibly two) registers for wheelchair accessibility, they’re allowing other employees in wheelchairs to have easy access to a job.
And when I expressed surprise to the managers and said, “No one’s ever done anything like this for me before,” they expressed shock and surprise.
I’m also not the token disabled girl at the store. There are many employees who are obviously disabled as well. And it’s not like WalMart where they just stick the obviously disabled as greeters, everyone is in different positions and different levels.
The only thing I fear about this job is that they might spoil me. I might start expecting to be treated ‘normally’. I might keep expecting to have rightful access to the world.
Because if one corporation can so easily make accommodations, then I’m going to start to believe that anyone who doesn’t even try is purposefully excluding disabled people from their environment.