By Andy Berry
Me: 'Hi, I'd like to discuss that job you advertised'.
Recruiter: 'Go away. We don't employ no spazzies here!'
Wouldn't life be easier if discrimination was that blatant! Then, you'd know where you were, even if you'd never get anywhere.
No, it's always more subtle - sometimes so subtle that you're left wondering 'Am I blaming everything on my disability - have I got BO or what's wrong with my hairstyle?'
Two recent examples
I get an interview fixed up; find out it's a small company so I think 'Oh, I wonder if the office is accessible.' 'Um, sorry to bother you.' 'It's a bit late to tell us you're disabled - what else is wrong with you?' 'What, other than my two heads and the fact that I breath fire' I feel like saying.
I hear about a job for which I am ideally suited. I apply and get to speak to the team leader. The conversation goes like this: 'Hi, I hear you're disabled. Well, our office is in Portacabins so I don't think you'd manage.' Not: 'Let's talk about what your technical skills are and then see how we can work together.' Not: 'Can you manage working in Portacabins?' No, just the assumption that 'disabled' means wheelchair and 'can't cope'.
Let's try to uncover what's behind discrimination.
Like it or not, human beings are animals. We may like to think that we have intelligence, reason and even understanding but, somewhere deep inside us, lurks an animal as cruel as a wild dog. Like dogs, we are pack animals - anything 'unusual' unsettles us and we then concentrate on the differences. If I was really controversial, I could even extend the analogy and say humans, like dogs, pick on 'weak' members of their pack but perhaps that opens too many wounds.
No matter how many layers of laws, regulations, customs and whatever else you cover it up with, discrimination will continue.
So, what to do? Do I just accept discrimination? Do I find a kennel that fits comfortably, live within it and accept whatever scraps of food society throws me? Or do I rebel, behave like a fighting dog, snarl and bite at everybody?
The answer is 'I compromise.' I decide what I find 'tolerable' and I tolerate it. Anything outside this (an example, for me, is the attack on the right-to-life for all people with disability) I fight against. The weapons I choose (this article and others like it) may not be those used by everyone but I feel just as passionately as if I was standing outside the Government offices with a banner.
What do YOU do???
I'm really keen to hear what you think of this. Please email any comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org