Hi. I am Zaiden Sowle and I am the Content Production Intern at The Darkest Horse. I am sharing my story of disability in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This article is Part 2 in a three-part series. In Part 1, I talked about how I move through the world. In Part 2, I share how I am navigating my career. And in Part 3, I share what COVID-19 taught me about accessibility. You can find Part 1 here. Part 3 of the series will be released on October 26th.
PART 2: NAVIGATING MY CAREER AS A DISABLED PERSON
Today, I am a fierce advocate for myself and I will advocate for myself as I enter the workforce. I learned to stand up for myself as a young child.
Throughout my K-12 education I would, from time to time, encounter teachers who would not always honor my accommodation needs, despite having official accommodations approved by my schools. As a result, I had to learn how to advocate for my needs to these teachers from a fairly young age. Fortunately, this has served me well, as I have had a lot of practice being an advocate for myself in all aspects of my life, and at times an advocate for others.
And I’ll be bringing this compassion for myself to the workplace. I am now in my last semester of college and will graduate in December 2021. I have begun to question how I will disclose my disabilities and accessibility needs to future employers. But I find myself in a whirlwind of questions:
- What are the benefits/drawbacks of disclosing my disabilities during the interview phase?
- What are the benefits/drawbacks to disclosing my disabilities once I get a job offer?
- What are the benefits/drawbacks to disclosing my disabilities after accepting a job offer?
I am brought back to the first interview I had with Rada and Chanté (TDH Co-founders), which led to my wonderful and rewarding time as a TDH intern. My interview took place at a local restaurant. Although it wasn’t particularly crowded, the noise level of the restaurant was just loud enough where I needed to use a mini- microphone that connects to my hearing aids. As I began to take the microphone out of my purse, I explained: “I wear hearing aids and was wondering if it would be ok if I used this microphone.” They happily accommodated me and the interview proceeded. This small piece of conversation turned into a broader discussion around my accessibility needs. In this conversation, I mentioned the disabilities I have as a result of the brain tumor and a few of the ones I’ve had since birth.
I felt fully welcomed, included, and supported at TDH even before my first day. In this interview, I have found the answers to many of my whirlwind questions. For me, it is better to disclose my disabilities during the interview phase.That way, I can see whether I might be comfortable working at the organization based on how they respond to my disclosure. Plus, it relieves the pressure to worry about disclosing at a later date. If I don’t get the job, I will be able to move on better, knowing that I was showing up to the interview as my whole self.
I hope that I will end up at an organization that fully values every part of me, allowing me to be fully engaged and committed to the organization. However, I must stress that this decision is unique to me and that everyone needs to explore/determine what the right path for them is.
REFLECTIONS + RESOURCES:
- Given this reframe of disability, where do you think the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) falls short or does not go far enough? I am asking you to ponder this question, with the hope that you and your organization will work to go (far) beyond the ADA, in terms of creating an inclusive and accessible workspace.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.gov)
- 30 years after Americans with Disabilities Act, college students with disabilities say law is not enough (NBC News)
- The ADA is turning 30. It’s time that it included digital accessibility. (NBC News)
In the next article, I will share what COVID-19 taught me about accessibility. Talk to you soon.