We all know how hard it is to find work these days, but what is it like for disabled jobseekers?
I’ll tell you.
I graduated from my post-graduate journalism degree at the end of 2015, and like most graduates I was told how hard it is to find work. You have to do a bunch of unpaid work in the hopes of exposure, which I did throughout university – a privilege not everyone can afford. Or you need a crazy amount of experience for an entry-level role.
Job-hunting is daunting as it is, but being in a wheelchair adds that extra anxiety factor when you’re wheeling yourself into that interview room.
My very first job interview was towards the end of university for a casual position at a major news agency in New Zealand. I was hired on the spot.
Then I had to bring up the access issue, so I could do the job they obviously thought my brain was perfectly capable of doing. Obviously. Because he ‘hired’ me straight away. That’s when things got weird.
All I needed was a portable track pad instead of a mouse. I had one at home that connects to a computer via Bluetooth. Literally all I had to do was bring it in. And even if I didn’t, there is funding available for equipment and modifications to help disabled people into the workforce. The company doesn’t have to fork out a cent.
He said he would have to talk to the IT department and get back to me as soon as possible. The next day I got an email saying they gave the position to someone else. After that my job seeking momentum fell immediately. Is this going to happen every time?
I find it quite hard to believe a track pad is not compatible with their computers.
According to the 2013 Disability Survey, 39% of New Zealand’s disabled population under the age of 65 are unemployed.
From that, 74% said they would work if a job became available. That is roughly 320,000 people who are capable of work but are likely not being given the chance.
I’m still unsure why they were willing to hire me as a wheelchair user but were not ok with one tiny equipment alternative. But I do know that if I hadn’t needed it, I would’ve been employed before I graduated.
I’m making this my first post because I think it’s important for people to know that things aren’t sweet for disabled people just because you see more ramps and guide dogs about than before. Total equality doesn’t come until we’re at least given a chance.