Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Well, my grandmother couldn't walk. It was sad I guess"

The question -- actually the first question -- was, "What are some of the stereotypes you think of relating to disabilities?" And, "What types of stereotypes do you think might arise for students with disabilities at college?"
It was the first question we were asking candidates to be our new office receptionist.

Before she said, "Well, I grew up around my grandmother who couldn't walk -- it was sad," our erstwhile candidate said, "Oh, stereotypes, I don't know -- I just really don't know any." (It occurred to us later that she might known what "stereotypes" meant, even though she claimed to be really interested in her recent neuropsychology classes...)

I generally hate interviewing people, and this time was no exception (although I do hate interviewing for jobs worse than I hate interviewing others). But, I have to say that, in my almost 48 years, this woman was the most breathtakingly dumb person I had ever encountered in this setting. I mean, wow. I was so taken aback that I got a temporary brainlock, looking down at the questions I was supposed to ask her. My mind was screaming "this is over" and "abort, abort", while my colleagues were looking expectantly at me to barf out the next question.

She was so bad that I would have suspected it was an elaborate "punking", except that I know we're all way to busy around here to set up something like that.

Another page in this same folio...
Years ago, I was working with this highly over qualified, intelligent woman, who was working more or less as a receptionist, and I was working as an independent contractor, doing word processing at her company. In the course of conversation one afternoon, I mentioned that because of the appearance of my skin -- which looks really dry and flaky -- combined with a slow and painful gait, I had often experienced discrimination. Socially, in the work place, in school -- you name it.
She was stunned. College-educated, liberal, aware of the Civil Rights Movement, and Women's Movement -- and was stunned that persons with visible disabilities would experience discrimination. I was stunned that she was stunned.
I wonder if she could have answered that "stereotypes" question.


Rebecca said...

I wonder if the well-educated receptionist suffered from Age of Aquarius blindness. Kind of a naivete that kept her from believing people could be cruel and unkind. Sometimes the idea that we're living in the best of all possible worlds is too good a drug to give up.

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imfunnytoo said...

I loathe interviews. I recognize they are necessary. I've blown plenty and had to skip others this summer due to anxiety so heavy I couldn't walk out the door.

But I never thought of the difficulty from the other side when confronted by someone so collossaly unfit for a given position.

Lucky I haven't ever been an interviewer. I would have busted out laughing too many times.

Anonymous said...

Great question for an interview! Usually it is the job seeker that is thinking about that question. I can't imaging anyone not being able to "turn it around." That is one of the first things my mom taught me, "Put yourself in the other persons shoes, and look at it from their perspective." So, is that advise out of date now?

My problem with stereotyping is my disabilities are hidden, not invisible, they sure show up on the MRI. It goes like this, "I am sorry, I can't stand at that low table, balance this lunch tray, and fill out an application all at the same time, as I am disabled." response, "you look like you can walk just fine to em!"

I complain, and ask for the application form: "She was demanding more information than necessary that I prove my disability, and wouldn't give me the form and let me sit while filling it out." response from acting manager, "She didnt discriminate against you, she didn't ask you to prove you were disabled at all, she told you you have to stand in the line!"

Result: She also didn't provide me with the application form, so I got no lunch and no application; BUT I wasn't asked to prove my disability, or was I?

I will be sure to wear my wheelchair the next time! LOL