October is National Disability Awareness Employment month. It has made me stop and reflect on my experiences with gaining employment. I was 18 when I got my first real job this was after countless applications. So many of my friends had jobs and I just wanted someone to give me a chance. One day I had an interview at the local movie theater and I went in and talked to the manager and I explained to her how I could do the job and that I was just the right person for the job and she decided to give me a chance. I remember her being very concerned that I would not be able to reach the register. I told her I would not have applied for this job if I didn’t think I could do it. Then I said to her let me show you we went downstairs to the register and I showed her how I could reach and what I had to do slightly different. She hired me on a temporary bases saying lets see how this works. I was so excited that she was giving me the chance. Looking back I have realized that no one else had to prove their abilities to the point that I had too in order to get the job. It really wasn’t right that I felt I had to show her that I could do something in middle of interview and that she encouraged me to show her. There were a lot of discriminatory acts that happen in that interview but all I cared about at the time was getting hired.
Working in theater brought lots of challenges but it also gave me the chance to show people what I really could do. I often had the fastest line. I interacted with thousands of people at the theater in some way it was a chance for them to see that a person with disability was capable of many things. I also had to deal with ignorance some was in the form of people staring at me which is something I dealt with growing up and sometime people make comments.
Since the movie theater I have had to deal with job discrimination I filled out many applications when I was in college hoping to get some kind of employment but again I saw the faces and when I turned the application in I honestly didn’t believe it would make it to a manager or an interview. I remember how frustrating it was because I could do many things if people would just stop and treat me like everyone else. While in college I worked at an after school program this is where I really began to grow my professional skills. Since college I feel like I have had less job discrimination and maybe that is due to the types of jobs I have applied for or the people have been educated better about the abilities of people with disabilities. I do know that the stereotypes are still out there able people with disabilities there are those who are shocked that a person with a disability can have a full-time job. Then there are others who are angry that people with disabilities are not gainfully employed. The reality is being gainfully employed with a disability is not easy and each of us are doing the best we can.