As a disabled woman (#identityfirst), I was eagerly awaiting the premiere of Employable Me AU. At first I was a bit sceptical; would it be a patronising wank-fest? Would possible employers be hailed as heroes for the charitable gesture of taking on a disabled employee? Could I watch it without vomiting or throwing something at the TV?
Then I remembered this was the ABC, not commercial television. They may be politically biased, but at least they recognise disability as a human condition. Phew!
I’ll admit, I hadn’t heard of this show until the Aussie version was advertised, but I imagined it to be the employment version of the BBc series The Undatables (which I loved by the way), and in a way, it was.
OK, so there was no vomiting, nor was there any urges to throw things at the TV, (fortunate, as I was watching it on my iPad and the TV was in the other room so I would have had to get up). There was however, many tears.
As I watched, I felt a tremendous sense of guilt at being employed by a great organisation and how much I have been able to advance my career. Further, I have been working here for almost 14 years so I felt a bit greedy. Sometimes even, I am astounded by how good I am at making things all about me. In my defence though. I also felt enormously grateful.
Anyway, long story short, I really liked it.
It actually took the time to highlight the fact that (not unlike everyone else), disabled employees can and do bring unique insights and talents to the work place, even one that is not a sheltered workshop. HOORAY!
If I do have one criticism though, it is that all the disabilities that were featured were all intellectual or neurological. There was no one whose disability was purely physical, i.e. someone who is blind, deaf, missing a limb or who has a mobility issue.
Yes, I could relate to the prejudices that the subjects faced as disabled job seekers, but not in the same way. Remember, not all disabilities are created equal.
At least two of these people had a job coach with them to help them secure a job and settle in, just as I did back when I started (much to my embarrassment). However, not one of them needed assistive technology ( such as a screen reader) as I do now.
This might seem insignificant, but in omitting this, they missed the chance to show employers how easy it is to procure/use things like this without disrupting anyone else’s productivity or adversely affecting the company’s profit margin. That goes for building/work station modification too.
This seems (in my experience) to be one of the biggest hesitations for employers taking on a disabled person as a new staff member.
Some one asked me the other day what the biggest challenge as a disabled person in the workplace is for me. The answer is trust. Because there is generally such a low expectation of disabled people in general, I find that often people are hesitant to trust me with important tasks, believing that said task would be far beyond my capabilities or comprehension. It isn’t, unless I say it is.
I found this a lot in the beginning, but thankfully, it happens less and less these days. I do get the odd person appear taken a back when they meet me in person after working with me by phone or email though. Again, this goes back to low expectation and I think this will stop with an influx of highly capable disabled employees (such as myself, LOL) being around.
Now all we need is to make the public realise that having the desire to work (even if you are disabled) is not inspirational, it is normal.