"Well, what do you like doing, Johnny/ Julie?"
"Well sir, I like maths/ English/ science and would like to be a banker/ journalist/ pharmacist."
"All very commendable but the only thing you are allowed to be is a Paralympian so spend the afternoon pushing your wheelchair round the playground for me."
OK, maybe a touch oversimplified but it seems to be the mood of the country? - "Look at all those Paralympian's doing amazing things. Why can't all the disabled benefit scroungers be like that?"
I'm just a run of the mill normal invisibly disabled person.After my accident I didn't consider Paralympic Sport because all I wanted to do was play normal sport again. My choice and I don't regret it.
Having tried and failed, I thought if I can't excel at sport I'll excel at work so over the next 17 years, by not highlighting my invisible disability and allowing people to think I was eccentric because I did things slightly differently, I ascended the tree to end up at Executive level.
I tend to think I ascended to the level where my disabilities matter because since then Nada, nothing, zip. It takes me time to develop relationships with people.When I'm thinking you can see it on my face. When I get angry no matter how I behave my face (through its involuntary twitches etc) makes it clear. I can control the way I consciously act but I am eccentric.
The world of sport is not equal. If it was Paralympian's and Olympians would at a minimum compete in the same games and ideally in the same events. As this isn't completely achievable the Paralympic Games is run in Parallel to the Olympics (hence the name!!) and the events are designed to allow the athletes to demonstrate their ability and high level of achievement.
Unfortunately, when you apply for a job their isn't a special category of jobs for the disabled to apply for. There are no "T34 CFO Jobs" advertised. In our dash for equality we forgot that we are different. That is not a bad thing, but if you put me up against a non-disabled person for a job I have to compete on his terms. No allowances. You can ask for reasonable adjustments but when you do they often get refused because they would give you an advantage over non-disabled candidates. All quite reasonable within the law.
But it's worse than that.
There is a wide ranging and rich diversification of disability out there. We are not all the same! Consider this scenario.
A company decides that it will recruit solely by telephone interview. There are 2 candidates, a candidate in a wheelchair and a head injured candidate. They know exactly the same things and are equally as qualified. They give exactly the same answers. Who gets the job?
Before you answer that be aware that under the stress of the interview the head injured person's speech became slightly slurred and he took longer to begin to answer the competency based based questions as his severe memory impairment impacted on his speed of recall of the exact circumstances surrounding the example but still gave exactly the same answers.
Now who gets the job? A lot of interviews are decided upon "soft" criteria and "Who is most like me?" You may think that is OK because the candidate in the wheelchair presented better at interview. Are you saying that an interview is the only way of selecting people for jobs? Does an interview itself not run the risk of being discriminatory purely because you are seeing how people perform in a situation which in the main bears little resemblance to the day to day job being interviewed for? What if there is a cognitive problem that causes problems at interviews but is rarely an issue in day to day life (don't laugh, they do exist - I have such a problem (spasticity caused by brain damage in my frontal lobe))!
So what do we do? Starting from the premise that the interview system will never be perfect what about instead of treating people equally make positive allowances to minimise the effects of any disability? But that will advantage the disabled over the non-disabled - NOT FAIR!
There is a current feeling of pride in our Paralympian's for their achievements. But haven't we made positive allowances by changing the events they compete in to minimise the effects of any disability. Doesn't this disadvantage the non-disabled as they are excluded from competing at the Paralympic's whereas the disabled can compete at the Olympics - Oscar Pistorius.
Why is Sport different from Work?
By the way, I do not rule out the possibility that I am not good enough to get the jobs I go for and I am unmanageable and thoroughly unpleasant but will leave it to others to Blog that!!