Jessica has a BA from Ryerson University in Journalism. She’s been writing as a freelancer for the year after she received her degree, but now she’s looking for a part- or full-time job that will provide her with a more steady income. Finding that employment has been tough. Not only is she competing with other college graduates for a job, she’s also finding that job hunting with a disability can be a challenge.
“I can’t hide my cerebral palsy, I can only hope that employers aren’t blinded by assumptions about what I can and can’t do, and give me a chance based on my qualifications.”
Jessica also has a learning disability. While she was in school, her learning disability was “challenging but manageable.” As a student, she had rights to accommodations such as copies of class notes and extra time on tests. But the hiring process is different. “At no point during my post-secondary education did anyone explain how to advocate for what you need in the workforce."
And while the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires that employers do not discriminate against those with disabilities, Jessica shares that in her experience, not all employers have “clear policies for accommodation during job assessments.”
Jessica shares details of two interviews she’s had. In both, she was told she would be having only a verbal interview. But when she arrived on her first appointment, the interview was followed by an exam she hadn’t known about in advance. “Because I hadn’t been given a heads-up, I felt unsure, uncomfortable and annoyed,” she shares.
For her second appointment, Jessica showed up and was given an exam to complete, but no interview. She decided to make the best of it and give it her best shot. The exam included a math section. “My learning disability affects my comprehension, spelling, grammar and math skills,” shares Jessica. When she asked the employer if she could use a calculator for the math portion, they said no.
“Throwing caution to the wind, I came clean and told them about my learning disability. They looked uncomfortable and told me to do my best. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get called back for an interview.”
Jessica is still on the hunt for a job, and she’s learned some valuable lessons along the way. “I’ve realized that I have nothing to lose, or be ashamed of, in being upfront about my learning disability,” she shares. She’s decided that for future interviews, she will ask about an assessment, and if there is one, she’ll be up front about her disabilities. She’ll also be sure to inquire about accommodations the employer can provide during the assessments. “If an employer has a problem with my disabilities and doesn’t wasn’t to accommodate me, I probably don’t want to work for them anyway.”
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