Job Interview

Dear Hiring Committee:

I made it through the screening process. You only know what I put on paper so far. Now we meet for the first time. You seem like an affable group. Smiles and handshakes all around. Then, “What’s your dog’s name?” A harmless question, really. But you noticed I use a service dog. You seem okay with it as she settles at my feet ignoring everyone.

The interview goes well. We have a sheet of prepared questions, ten in all including the ultimate “Do you have any questions for us?” I answer them easily, gauging your interest by the notes you take, or don’t take. I see you watching me and hope it’s because you’re hanging off my every word and not wondering what’s so wrong with me that I have a service dog.

Oops. I “forgot” to mention I’m Autistic. I can pass off as NT pretty well. I’ve been doing it most of my life. You don’t seem to pick up on any of my stims (yes, I rub the skin between thumb and finger when I’m nervous) or the bit of rigidity that sometimes shines through in my answers. I choose not to disclose because I’m afraid it will bias you. I’m afraid you will only see my Autism and not all the experience and qualifications I bring to the table. I’m afraid you will judge me not worthy to work because you are not familiar with people like me. Whew, made it through the interview!

Oh wait. I “forgot” to attach myself to the bag of IV fluids I run all day using a pump. It’s a bit obvious, you see. It makes me look fragile. The pump’s clicking noise is like an adding machine. Ka-clunk. Ka-clunk. Ka-clunk. Every 8 seconds. In a quiet room, you can hear the pump doing it’s job. I don’t want you to be distracted from ME. I’m the focus here. Can I do the job? YES, I can. Do you need to worry about my pump? No. I can handle it. The fluids make it possible for me to ask for this job. You see, they keep me out of the hospital.

It’s kind of funny that the job is with Disability Services and I’m afraid to disclose my disabilities because they might disqualify me. That’s how strongly I sense the stigma of being disabled. Sure, this will all come out if you hire me. I’ll deal with that when it happens. At least I know you hired me for ME and not out of some misguided sense of filling an EEO place. Yep, we’ll have to work around appointments, perhaps more so than an “average” employee but not so much that I can’t do the job.

There you have it. You didn’t ask and I didn’t tell. There’s a certain beauty to this dance. We both have to take risks and hope the payout is worth it. I’m sure you didn’t disclose everything about the job. I quite sure you didn’t tell me about the personalities I will have to “fit in” with in this position. So, I don’t feel bad about leaving out a few things that really don’t impact how well I can do the job. That’s what this whole process is about, right? Finding the most qualified candidate to do the job.


Oysters and Life


Why are you disabled?

An odd experience today. To understand this, you need to know that I don’t have a visible disability. You would never guess I’m disabled or even sick, unless you saw my insulin pump. Even then you would wonder how diabetes can be disabling. I get it. You can’t see the hundreds of little ways my life has been affected by illness. And, sinceĀ I don’t wear a flashing neon sign either looks can be deceiving.

Today, a stranger wanted to know why I had a service dog. Not being in the mood to disclose information, I answered because my dog mitigates my disabilities. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have used the word mitigate. It confuses people. The next words were “You can’t be disabled. My cousin is disabled and she doesn’t look like you.” I sure hope not. I have many cousins, but none live near me. There is absolutely no way this woman’s cousin could be related to me.

And I said as much. A bit snarky, I admit. I am tired of people thinking all disabilities “look” alike. Please, tell me what a diabetic looks like. Tell me what someone with vascular disorders looks like. Tell me what someone who can’t eat looks like. Tell me what someone with PTSD looks like. Tell me what someone with Autism looks like. Yeah, you can’t. Because we are not our disabilities. We are people who look just like you.