I’m disabled you know

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17

I’ve filled in a few forms recently and there is the obligatory question, “Do you consider yourself to have a disability?” and I go to click “No” but then realise that I am classed as having a disability.

“The Equality Act 2010 considers someone to be disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.” 

Where’s my blue badge then?

These forms are all about equality and diversity, but you do wonder if they actually mean or do anything at all. Who looks at them? Is there a league table in an office somewhere praying for the black, lesbian in a wheelchair to roll into an interview room so they can strike the jackpot? 

While I fully support the need to ensure everyone is treated equally when it comes to getting a job, there are many things that are becoming less important on that form and others that really need to be moved up the rankings. For example the question “Are you Male or Female” is out of date. Surely the question needs to be something like “Do you live as a Male or Female?” or “Do you see yourself as a male or a female?” With Transgender issues finally being taken seriously we need to address that first important question. 

The question about race is a strange one too – am I British White or Scottish White? Well that’s not a question about ethnicity, it’s a political question. I might be 1/16th Chinese, 1/8th Russian, 1/4 Irish and the rest Brazilian – the only people that might care are the makers of “Who do you think you are” if I ever get asked. And why does my age matter either – if you can’t be biased because of the applicant’s age then why do they need this info at all. Unless they are writing my birthday into their diary so they remember to buy cake…

Then there’s the disability question I started with. It is ludicrous that we put all disabilities in one giant tick box and expect to put a paraplegic and someone who suffers from anxiety in the same category. We need to recognise what support they will need in the workplace instead of companies covering their backs from a legal point of view. Companies continually put their HR staff on courses about all these things and expect them to have a full understanding of what it is like to have disability “x” – that’s nonsense. We can’t expect them to pick it up that simply. 

I’ve been asked a few times by employers “What can we do for you to make it easier or more manageable” with regard to my bi-polar disorder and I always give the same answer “I don’t know.” And there’s the whole issue with having these labels and courses – if the person with the “disability” doesn’t know or understand the implications then a stranger will definitely struggle. It’s not a dig at HR departments, but more a question for our society – what is this urge we have to cleanly box everyone up in categories?

My gender, sexual preference, age, ethnicity and disability are not really that important – my ability to do the job is. While I’m sure some of my friends in HR are probably laughing at my ignorance to the importance of these things I still question the need for pigeon holing people when the whole point of that form is to aid diversity. You don’t improve a human being by fixing it on a spreadsheet and sticking labels on. 

The label only allows me legal protection, but as a human being I should have that anyway – companies should treat their staff with respect regardless of what that sheet of questions shows. I don’t want to appear to be looking down on physically disabled people and not want to be included with them – in fact it’s the exact opposite. I want those who are genuinely stopped from achieving because of their disability to be given the chances the rest of us are. Don’t lump me in with them, they deserve better. 

JD

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