What happens when you disregard your own policies in the business world? A disability-related company’s mistakes are leaving Erin Kelly with questions.
Discrimination comes in many forms. It can wear many hats, hide behind many faces and can be exposed to the outside world by word of mouth. It is perhaps one of the most hurtful and harmful injustices committed against mankind—yet it’s an act that’s so simple, almost elementary, to commit. By the same token, it can happen at any time, any place and to anyone.
The entire spectrum of discrimination is disturbing, even to look at it on a small scale such as within a community or neighborhood. When one looks at it from a larger point of view, however, they begin to see the cracks in our society spread until they get bigger—causing a divide of some sort.
Maybe that person doesn’t realize that what they’re doing or saying is only adding to that gap instead of find a way to close it. Maybe they took a wrong turn on their way to get to wherever they’re going—or perhaps they simply don’t know any better. There’s a world of truth in the notion that the negativity displayed by the human race isn’t always a result their circumstances or pure ignorance. In fact, some may consider it rude or disrespectful to think otherwise. Then there are those who refuse to change their ways.
So the question then becomes: Why do we allow the pessimistic mindset of a few to bleed into places where negativity doesn’t belong—such as the workplace? Why do we often let that negativity affect the way we work and think? Most importantly, why are some companies still putting individuals with disabilities at the center of this kind of attention?
According to a recent article published by Aljazeera America, an organization known as The Arc of Texas is looking to hire a new CEO. The irony—and problem—surrounding this is the fact that they’ve listed unfair, unjust and rather odd requirements for the position which are targeted towards workers with disabilities—when the company markets itself as being dedicated to the advocacy, inclusion and rights of disabled individuals. The requirements include:
- Seeing, hearing and listening
- Clear speech
- Ability to transport oneself between offices and workplaces
- Driving skills
These are listed underneath a headline that reads, “Physical and mental requirements”—along with a public announcement regarding the job opening, which states: Disabled people need not apply.
On the surface, it would seem as if the company did this to attract potential employees, which is sensible. However, by posting things that belittle the disabled community when the position is for a disabled worker, is degrading. Not only that, but it’s also misleading and confusing. At first, you’re not sure if the “Disabled people need not apply” statement means “disabled people don’t count”, or if it’s calling attention to the notion that the organization is assuming those who wish to apply for this already have a disability. Thus, they don’t need to apply at all. If anything, these things are likely going to push people away and potentially hurt the company in the long run.
I think that’s pretty low either way. Another aspect of this that I find strange is the list of requirements itself. What if someone doesn’t have good speaking skills, good hearing and seeing or the ability to drive or move to place to place independently? Is that person automatically crossed off the list for contention?
The organization should have known that not every person is going to have all the physical attributes on that list. They had to have known that even listing those requirements was a shot in the dark, because every disability is different—which results in different situations. Someone might have one attribute but not the other, so they need to figure out how to compensate if they’re able to do so.
If you’re disabled and are fortunate enough to get to the point where employment is a viable option, you want the opportunity to go through the same process as any other potential employee. You want to bring your credentials and lay them all out on the table for your potential employee to see. It’s all a part of knowing you have a disability, and trying to not allow it to get in the way of living the life you want to live.
This boils down to ethics, even though it’s about the business world at its core. The fact that The Arc of Texas posted such demeaning statements with this job opening—and didn’t see anything wrong or at least off kilter, is perhaps the most disturbing thing about all this.
In fact, David Perry, who wrote the original article for Aljazeera America, questions whether or not the company’s requirements and choice of language in promoting the position should be considered illegal:
“What’s a disability rights organization doing pre-emptively discriminating against disabled individuals in its most important hiring? And is this kind of language—which can be found in job postings from the tech sector, the non-profit world and countless academic jobs—even legal?”
Perry goes on to express his thoughts further, saying businesses are the ones who are at a disadvantage when they exclude the disabled community from hiring for jobs. He backs up his argument by highlighting statements from several other representatives of disability-related companies—including Jay Ruderman from The Ruderman Family Foundation, which strives to bring inclusiveness of the disabled community into society:
“People may not know that people with disabilities are the largest minority in our country and the poorest segment of our population,” Ruderman says. “It is fundamentally unjust that 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed and excluded from inclusion in the daily aspects of life most of us take for granted.”
That alone tells the world something. Not only does it tell people that disabled individuals should be embraced rather than feared or shunned—but it also speaks volumes about the need for equal opportunity.
We all can learn from each other if someone is willing to open that door enough for us to push our way through. Some of us may need more help than others, but that’s what open hearts and minds are for. That’s what creates real change, and it’s why we need to “practice what we preach”. In the case of The Arc of Texas, they might not have gotten that memo in time. One thing is for sure, though: it’s never too late to open our eyes and turn over a new leaf.
Photo Credit: BC Gov Photos/Flickr