Author: Alicia Reagan
Let me introduce you to Joe. Joe served in our military. His body was in peak condition. He was disciplined. He was a top soldier. Then Joe got wounded.
An explosion blew off Joe’s legs and part of one arm. Joe was sent for many months of therapy. Joe was no longer in control of his care, or his day to day routine. Joe’s days consisted of intense pain and hard work to try to regain whatever pieces of his life he had left. Joe was devastated physically and emotionally.
Months passed and Joe applied the same discipline that he knew and loved to his healing. He worked very hard in therapy to become independent. Joe was so proud of how far he had come and the day came for Joe to go back out into the world and feel useful again. Joe knew he had much still to offer this world.
So Joe began to look for work. This is where the story stops for so many with disabilities.
It is hard to find work after a disability, and it is still rare to find a business eager to give us a shot. It is common for those with disabilities to stop trying. We can sit and whine when this happens. We can point fingers and pass the buck as to why this happens. Or, we can look for some helpful solutions to both sides of this problem – the employer and the employee.
- Look Inside Out
Look deeper than what you see. Look for what you don’t see. His skills. His qualities. His contributions. Remember: A person only feels as good as his contributions can give back.
- Hire Us – Not Our Disability
Platitudes and head patting do not go over well. We are trained. We are qualified. We are respectable. If we are not the right person for the job, tell us why. Remember: We are not thin-skinned, bitter cripples as stereotypes would suggest.
- Challenge Us
We don’t want an “easy” task. Accessible, yes. Easy, no. Give us the hard projects. Make us solve problems and figure things out. Give us a chance to show that we are very capable of handling our jobs and climbing the proverbial ladder. Remember: We need purpose as well as the paycheck.
- Remove the Chip
Sometimes the greatest hindrance to our job is us – not our disability! We do have to face negative opinions and sometimes in our effort to balance that, we become negative ourselves. Make sure that you do not develop an attitude that everyone in the world is against you before you ever get started. Remember: Everyone in the world is not against you.
- Use Your Abilities
We want others to see us – not our disabilities. So, what are your strong traits or skills? I like people. I have never met a stranger. I have personally made it my mission to let my smile enter a room before I do. I smile and say hello to everyone I meet. I want them to see me and remember something about me besides my wheelchair. I cannot tell you how many people remark about my smile. An interview is no different. Let them remember something positive about you after meeting you. Remember: First impressions are what last. Make it a positive one.
- Keep Trying
The number one rule in sales is to expect no’s. You are taught to be prepared for the no’s. Why? Because if you let the no’s start discouraging you, you will be ineffective. Be prepared that it will happen and you just keep going. I have met so many disabled people that expect a job to fall in their lap. It doesn’t work that way! Get out there and sell yourself! Remember: Discouragement accomplishes nothing but more discouragement.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Employers, please consider this amazing population of people that know the meaning of hard work and perseverance in our daily lives. We make wonderful employees. Disabled friends, get out there and get busy! We have a world to help change with our contributions!
Alicia Reagan is a dedicated disability advocate and member of United Spinal Association. To learn more about Alicia, visit http://aliciareagan.com/