When someone talks about the ‘elephant’ in the room, they are referring to a topic or problem that no one wants to discuss.
I am going to put one out there because it needs to be discussed. I did not earn the nickname, “Troublemaker” for nothing. Anyways, this is something that I have had to deal with all of my adult life. I am certain that those who have some form of disability have had to confront the same situation as well.
When we go to apply for a job or interview for a job, do we mention that we have a disability?
See. Did it make you squirm? If you are an HR person or a business owner, I am certain it makes you uncomfortable. Don’t tell me otherwise. The only time that you can tell me otherwise is if you have had some experience or relationship with someone in your life that has some form of disability. That would be the exception.
Now, let’s flip it to the other side. How we feel about this issue. We’re uncomfortable. We struggle with this issue because we know we get “discriminated” or we’re dealing with bias. We don’t like this ‘label’ as a matter of fact. Most of the time or rather, we would like NOT to put down that we have some form of disability on the application. But if we’re blind, deaf or in a wheel chair, or whatever, we have to. So that we can put in the request for the accommodations that we need to be successful. Other than that, we feel that we can achieve anything we can put our minds to. Most of us have degrees. We’re quite self-sufficient. We’re married, raising families and leading what we consider, normal lives.
Every time we have to go and apply for jobs or interviews. This is what we have to deal with.
Unemployment Rate is Higher for Those Who Are Disabled
Statistics show that the percentage of those who have disabilities are unemployed are higher than those who do not have disabilities. As a matter of fact the Bureau of Labor just released a statement on June 21 2018: only 18% of those who had disability were employed. I was just dismayed when I read this report. It brought up so many horrible memories for me when I was going through the job hunting process. It is . . . demoralizing to say the least. (granted, the report says that half are those who were aged 65 and over. ) But read the Bureau of Labor report through and I am going to highlight a few bullet points below:
- Persons with a disability were less likely to be employed as private wage and salary workers than those without a disability (74.9 percent, compared with 80.3 percent)
- Workers with a disability were more likely to be employed part time than those with no disability. (These individuals were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.)
- Across all levels of education in 2017, persons with a disability were much less likely to be employed than were their counterparts with no disability.
When looking at these three bullet points, it shows that even with the current environment, those who have some form of disability – we’re still not reaping the benefits of earning income, becoming contributing members of the society and enjoying the fruits of our own labors. For many of us, it is frustrating. It is extremely bitter pill to swallow especially after we’re told if we work hard and get our degrees – we will get what we want. Often times, that is not the case for some of us.
We’ve had to make adjustments to our dreams. Usually going down paths that we do not want to take. Ouch. Yeouchy ouch. It hurts. It wounds the very heart and soul of who we are.
I cannot count the number of times when I had to tell the HR person that I was a deaf and was using a Captel phone, that my responses would be slightly delayed, I would get a moment of silence and then a short answer of along the lines of, Ok. Then I would not hear back from them again, ever.
Using Captel phone is not perfect. Often times as I waited for the typing to finish, the person was already at a different sentence or question and I responded at the wrong time.
If I did make it to the door and did a face to face interview, I still had to tell the person that I was deaf to explain my “accent,” or that I need to lip read to make sure I understood clearly. I tried to do it as a joke to lighten the mood. Did that work? Sometimes. Sometimes not.
The older I got, the more I did not care what others thought of me. The less I got concerned about “dealing with the so-called elephant” in the room. I felt that if the company could not see what I had to offer, then we were not going to be a good fit.
Here is the reality: most companies won’t see the value of people like me because they cannot address the bias they have with individuals who have some form of disability.
That is the elephant in the room. It is you. Not me.
So, let’s talk about it some more. How can your organization become more inclusive for those who have some form of disability?