‘May Require Heavy Lifting’: jobs and Disability

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*RANT ALERT*

I’ve had some bad interviews recently. I mean, blog worthily bad.

I’ve always performed really well in interviews. Generally, if I’ve got my foot in the door I can get the job. This has changed recently, but I don’t think it’s entirely my fault.

I am dyspraxic, I have vertigo and I also have Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder. The way this affects me in regards to jobs are that I can’t lift heavy things, I can’t climb up high things and I can’t crawl around on the floor or anything like that. These shouldn’t really be a problem for me because I come from a writing background, so have worked in social media and copywriting for big well known brands. My disabilities never caused any issue in my past jobs.

I’ve had a couple of really weird interviews recently, in which the job descriptions did not reflect what they were looking for:

The Tea Company

This job looked fairly interesting. They were looking for a social media manager to lift the profile of their tea brand online. They had advertised for someone with copywriting, photography, SEO and general social media skills. This is pretty much what I’ve been up to for the past 4 years, so when I was contacted by a recruiter about it, I thought it seemed quite hopefully.

When I turned up to the interview it was very odd. They also owned a luxury home company, which they wanted help on social media with. I thought, that’s alright, I can do that. It suddenly turned to ‘well, you’d be on a building site most weeks’. Hang on a minute. How have we gone from social media manager for a tea company to walking around in a hard hat and up scaffolding?

He then asked ‘well, could you cope working with all the men on the building site?’ Firstly, if he’s trying to stereotype these men, e.g. they’re wolf whistling or whatever, that is their wrong, not mine for ‘not coping‘. Secondly, why would I be working with people on a building site as a social media manager. Maybe, I can imagine occasionally going to take some photos or something, but this seemed as if it was the main part of the job.

He’d done what SO many employers do and presumed that ‘most’ people can walk around on a building site, so why does it need mentioning? Of course it needs mentioning, you can’t make assumptions that everyone applying to a writing role would be physically able to do that. You haven’t advertised anything physical, so why should I know that will be expected of me?

I wonder, if I’d turned up using some form of mobility aid, whether he would have just rejected me immediately.

Also, when he left he said ‘oh don’t worry about paying for the teas we drank’. In the teashop he owns…thanks m8.

The School

This was one has upset me recently. I got rejected from this job, and I can’t claim it’s because I’m disabled, but there was something in the second stage interview that was odd.

This job was an office based job. The job description detailed social media management, website management, relationship outreach, copywriting and event planning. The first interview went really well and seemed very positive. I was there for 2 hours discussing all the ideas I had for events and we went on a tour of the school so I could see the facilities I could use if I worked there. I told the first person about how I may struggle with lifting heavy things at events as I have dyspraxia, but I’m very happy to help with all other setting up. They were absolutely fine with this and told me that the site manager usually does stuff like that.

I was invited to second stage interview and the day before my second interview, they wanted me to get my references to hand in personal and detailed references by the end of the day of my second interview-I thought this seemed quite positive too.

On the day of the second interview, I was interview by the deputy headmistress which went well. Then I was interview by another lady, who I hadn’t been told I’d be interviewed by. I was told she just wanted a ‘quick chat’. I thought it was that she wanted to meet the person she may be working with and to introduce herself/explain what she does.

Straight away she got a clipboard out and started grilling me. She briefly touched on my experience and made remarks such as ‘I see you have a lot of experience in social media, have you used Facebook before?’ COME ONN. If she’d actually read my C.V, she wouldn’t need to ask such a basic question.

She then really honed in on the event side of things. Her question was ‘how do you feel about getting really stuck in with setting up the events?’ My response was honest; ‘I’m very happy to get involved in as much as I can, but I can’t lift really heavy things because I have dyspraxia.’ She looked really taken aback and didn’t really respond. So I said ‘I was told the site manager usually helps with those things.’ She replied ‘well, yes, but I like to do it myself and get properly stuck in’.

For the rest of the interview, she spent the time craning her neck to look out of the window behind my head and didn’t really look at me again. I found it so rude and upsetting because it happened almost immediately after I’d said about heavy lifting. She made me feel like I should be embarrassed by my disabilities.

When I asked why I’d been rejected from the job they used the reason that I had less event management experience than the other candidate. Now of course, this other person probably was just more experienced than me, but It did make me wonder whether it was related to that strange reaction from that lady.

Some people have said to me that I should just nod along and say I’m happy to do these things. I don’t think I should have to. I have applied to jobs in good faith, thinking they have been advertised correctly. Yes, all jobs sometimes have extra duties not advertised, but these jobs main focuses were completely different to the advert.

I shouldn’t have to lie and risk hurting myself or someone else. Any job which may require heavy lifting or climbing up ladders etc should include that somewhere in the advert or they should be able to cope with someone who can’t do those things, but excels at the core parts of the job.

These are only a couple of experiences, but I’ve had so many where people have made me feel as if I’ve been a nuisance to them because I can’t lift heavy things. Trust me, it’s more annoying for me than you. Dyspraxia and hypermobility affect me every day of my life in lots of little and big ways. I’m incredibly adaptable because of this, but there are a few things I just can’t do, and that’s ok. I’ve been honest and applied to jobs which haven’t detailed those things I can’t do.

I just wish employers acknowledged that disabled people do exist, they do work, they all differ. I cannot begin to image what it is like for people who do use mobility aids or have  more physical disabilities than me, who have turned up to interviews like this-I’m sure it must happen often.

Also please advertise if you have an office dog! I love dogs so much, but I am incredibly allergic. Epipen level allergic. I know it must be annoying for people with dogs, but it’s worse for me. I need to know if there will regularly be a dog somewhere I’m regularly going to be. I won’t be able to take the job and everyone’s time will have been wasted if I go to interview…and I’ll just get sad that I can’t stoke the dog.

 

Invisible Disabilities and Gigs

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So, I went to a gig last week. I’ve been going to gigs regularly for years, but over the past year my hypermobility and dyspraxia are manifesting themselves in a way that is making it really hard and painful for me to stand for long periods now. I always buy a seated ticket when available, but I’m finding it hard to accept not being able to go to gigs which aren’t in seated venues. Why should I miss out?

There are some gigs that I understand, aren’t suitable for me anymore, but the one I was at last week was far from it. The standing section had little cut out sections at the sides for disabled people, with seats and a little area of flat ground standing area (the venue had a sloped floor, which was really hard to stand on). I had spoken about not being able to stand very well (I also have a broken toe at the moment!) with the venue beforehand, but they said seating was not available. When I’d booked the gig, I hadn’t broken my toe, so I thought I’d just about manage standing. (I would probably have been wrong anyway!)

When I noticed the little area, I waited until the main band came on stage, to see if anyone else needed to use that area, and only two other people had gone in. So, I stood on the flat bit of floor at the very back of the area, in case others needed to use the chairs, or wheelchair users needed floor space. I felt happy, because I could cope better with standing on the flat floor.

About 3 songs into the main band, a lady in a wheelchair came into the area, so of course I moved further back to make sure she had enough room, then the security guard came in and told me to get out and that I wasn’t allowed to be there, it wasn’t for me. Then a large group of people dancing pushed past me to get in the space. I can’t comment about whether they were disabled, because this is the point of this blog. I don’t blame the security man, but this is an issue which is very prevalent in society. I felt really embarrassed and like I had to qualify my disabilities to him. Sometimes I feel ashamed, as if they think I’m lying, because I look fine.

We are so quick to judge people’s health or ability without knowing anything about them. I look like a ‘fit healthy young woman’, but I’m not. Some days, I can’t walk very well at all, and have to tape up my joints which are in shooting pain. Other days, I’m at the gym on the cross trainer (not being the most graceful though, I must add!). It’s confusing for me, so I know it must be confusing for others.

A lot of health and disabilities fluctuate massively, so why can’t we get this is our heads? And it’s not just able bodied people who do this, people with health conditions do it to.

My friend has hEDS, Fibromyalgia and POTS and uses a wheelchair or a walking stick. She was sitting behind a counter at work and a man who was a wheelchair user buying a ticket from her said ‘you don’t know what it’s like to be disabled!’ I’m sure, he must’ve been having a particularly bad day and was feeling frustrated…but he shouldn’t have made that assumption.

I think the main thing to take a away from both mine and my friend’s experience is, to never make assumptions about anyone’s situation. I’m still training myself to do this, in other areas of life.

As for gigs, I really hope there are more areas like this in gig venues, because I thought it was a great idea, but there needs to be more communication between the venue and people who need to use those areas. It would’ve been better, if I could’ve privately explained my situation to someone and they gave me a wrist band for the area, avoiding embracing questioning.  I’m sure people with visible disabilities also get these sort of issues arise at gigs also. I sometimes look at venues and think ‘this is definitely not accessible’ and there’s really no need. I’m not expecting to be right up the front and stage diving, but I think everyone has a right to watch a show they want to see.

What happens when you assume…

 

 

 

 

 

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