So, I seem to be on the employment struggle theme lately as I navigate the job market yet again. It is for this reason that I would love to share my successes, my struggles, and my over all experience when searching for employment as a person with vision loss. Please, remember that this is only my experience, and it is not necessarily reflective of everybody’s own unique experience.
Lets Go Way Back
July 2010, I am out of high school, now what? Well, I moved to a new city, and decided in the fall I was going to begin doing some upgrading of some high school courses. In order to focus on this, I opted to apply for Social Assistance. Some may say that this was where I messed up, some may say good on you for knowing what you needed to do and doing it. That being said, I navigated this system for a couple years until I was complete, where I than was accepted into my first year of university.
Away I Go
Yup, I am moving back to the city of Saskatoon, to attend the University of Saskatchewan and get myself prepared for the real world! Well, at least that was what I thought. I got myself through my first year of school and it was time for the job hunt, the apartment hunt. Well that was a total flop, I ended up moving back home and going onto disability because I not only could not find an apartment, I could not even find work to support my having my own apartment. This was my first true sense that this was going to be difficult.
I know I know, I skipped a number of years! We went from the summer of 2013 after my first year of university to, well I haven’t told you how far we are jumping yet. The important part is we jumped because there was the same issues year over year. Inability to find work, applying / living on disability. This seriously felt like an eternal circle of doom by this point.
Employment That Is Inclusive And Equitable!
Guys, I finally found work! The summer of 2018, I was happily employed by the government of Saskatchewan as a summer student for the ministry of social services. This was not only a role I was hoping I would get, but a role which gave me so much more experience than I could ever imagine. By this time, I can tell you that I was unemployed for 8 years following high school, and good god was I thrilled to have this job and have my own income for once.
Great, I am going back to school for some more classes, and I am back on student loans. This is a big bummer as I was really hoping that I could keep on part time with my team! This was a great feeling, as I loved my team, and loved what I was doing for the people of Saskatchewan experiencing disability. This all may have been a bit of a bummer; however, guess who got the same role the next summer! Yep, I returned to the same role from the previous summer, and yet again was loving it! The independence, the financial freedom, the actually contributing to society in a meaningful way which also provides me the financial stability and benefit.
Pandemic Time, Lets All Binge On Toilet Paper
Great, pandemic that nobody expected hits and really throws everything to the wolves. Thank god I have the ability to use my employment insurance so that I can survive during this time.
During the entirety of 2020, I was searching for work, applying to so many roles, and yet not getting even an interview. This honestly continued until I gained my current job on a part time basis.
Yes, part time employment is a job, it brings in the money. There is just one little problem. Not a single person can survive on part time hours and a sub $20/hour wage.
Throughout the entire time working for my current role, I have been searching further part time employment, full time employment, hell any kind of employment that I can obtain, just so I can pay my bills. Now that I am coming to the end of my contract, I still do not have any employment to pick me up after the end of my contract, and this is quite honestly terrorfying.
Well, I am dropping applications like crazy, working with an employment agency, networking until I can’t network anymore and still coming up short. I have great experience in conjunction with my education though incomplete, I have great skills and abilities, and I have a wide range of knowledge of various different systems but yet there are no bites.
No, I do not disclose my own disability, and no I do not disclose accommodation needs until I have the interview. I do not want to be the charity case or just another number to make the company look good. I don’t want to be disqualified because the hiring manager is concerned about my vision loss, I most importantly do not want to have any different opportunities with obtaining employment than the next person. That being said, why am I coming up short on the employment front? Not a single person can answer this and it is exhausting, it is soul destroying, even worse, it is single handedly the most painful spot to be in when you can not provide for yourself, let alone your family.
Okay, Enough About Me, What Can You Do?
So, lets put a spin on this soap box, and lets talk about what you as employers can do to bring people like me in. First off, and honestly the most important piece of advice I can give you is, look at my qualifications. Please do not look at my abilities or disabilities, they do not make who I am, rather they make up a part of who I am. They bring perspectives, life stories, and potentially positive impact to not only my life but potentially your business. Talk to me about what impact the disability may have in context of the job, rather what the impact on my life it has. Most importantly though, don’t assume I can not, rather please assume I can until you are informed otherwise. This is the same thing I believe, so would appreciate you believing the same.
Lets all remember, inclusion benefits everybody. Diversity benefits everybody, Equity benefits everybody. Finally, accessibility benefits everybody. Lets all work together to benefit the society and community we live, work and play in.