Thursday, May 29, 2014

Job Discrimination: Still Looking For Feedback

Icon of a red question mark with white stick figure leaning on it
I haven’t had any responses yet to my questions about employment discrimination. There are three reasons I am asking for feedback on this:

1. I am helping my local Center for Independent Living develop some classes for disabled people looking for work, and one of the topics we want to deal with is disability-based employment discrimination.

2. I am looking for work myself, and in my previous work experience, disability was actually a plus, not a problem. So I am personally curious about what real-life disability discrimination looks like in the job-seeking arena.

3. I think we in the disability community mention job discrimination a lot, often without being specific about it. It is annoying when non-disabled people say, “But what about the ADA? Isn’t it against the law for employers to discriminate?” It’s annoying because it sounds naive, but the question remains, how and why does disability discrimination still operate, and is there any practical, immediate way to combat it?

So please, dive in! Any comments on these and related questions would be helpful.


In the second Criptiques Podcast, guest Cheryl Green hilariously dismantles a staple of the disability community … “raising awareness”. She rightly skewers the ill-defined goals and bizarre stunts people think up in the name of promoting “disability awareness”.

I think that a lot of disabled people, themselves, rally around "raising awareness" because "awareness" to them means an ideal situation in which they wouldn't have to explain their disabilities to people anymore. When we someday achieve the desired state of “disability awareness”, people will just know what's up with our disabilities, and will correctly anticipate our needs. More importantly, they won’t misunderstand us anymore. They won’t assume we are drunk, drugged, mentally impaired, sad, incompetent, narrow, self-centered, awkward, boring, unpredictable, angry, bitter, or angelic anymore … just because we bear markers of some disability or other.

One problem with this is that it's impossible for everyone to become fully aware of every disability. At best, we might hope for broad understanding of a few basic concepts about all disabilities. If awareness efforts aim for something like that, then I'm all for it. But most "awareness" campaigns focus on specific disabilities or diagnoses, which is both too narrow and too ambitious. Or, the goals are so vague that the word “awareness” itself loses all meaning.