Dean’s list, Honors College, double major college graduate.
Numerous clubs and organizations headed, created, or participated in on campus.
Recommendation letters from professors, work managers, and Fran Dunphy, head basketball coach at Temple and kind of a legend in Philadelphia.
Internship at a finance company on Wall Street.
Internship for a United States Congresswoman at the Capital Building in Washington DC.
Most people would kill to have a resume like this during their job search senior year of college. But for some reason it just wasn’t cutting it for Jimmy. He had no problem getting interviews, and if the first interview was over the phone he would get second interviews in person. He had gone on over thirty . . . yes, THIRTY interviews and received no offers. He practiced, said everything he was supposed to say, and knew he was qualified for the positions. He doubted his competition had a stronger background—shoot, the same people that were constantly coming to Jimmy for help with homework were getting jobs. For him though, the offers just weren’t coming.
Jimmy had an idea of what was holding him back.
I would be willing to bet that reading this, you are thinking the same, basic thing that I was thinking. They didn’t see the resume; they saw the wheelchair. They see his little body, his weak arms, and the look of disability—of incapability.
But Jimmy thinks deeper than that. On one of our weekly date nights, he explained to me that it wasn’t his wheelchair that was preventing him from getting a job. On a much more basic level he said it was the fact that he couldn’t show how capable he was to perform at the workplace. Jimmy didn’t grow up in a bubble. He knows that there is an assumption of inability and dependence when people see him. He also knows that there are all sorts of laws making discrimination illegal. Jimmy realized that those same laws that were supposed to protect him were screwing him over in interviews. He explained to me the gray area where the law confuses discrimination with common sense, and that’s what Jimmy was in conflict with.
Because you cannot discriminate against someone based on their disability, by law, the people interviewing him were not legally allowed to ask him the reasonable questions that may be related to his disability. Anyone with a brain and no experience with someone like Jimmy would wonder things like, can he type? How does he operate a computer? Will he need someone to help him during the day?
Jimmy could have let this situation get the best of him, blaming the system and his circumstances and just chalk up rejection after rejection as if it was out of his control. But that’s not him. He decided to take matters into his own hands. As uncomfortable as it may have been, he knew he was going to have to bring up his own disability, and address the things he knew, or at least could guess, they were thinking.
While most people only worry about presenting what they can bring to the company, Jimmy had to do that and steer the conversation in a way to where he could interject the fact he is able to type the average amount of words per minute, and is fine using a lap top or keyboard as long as it’s positioned near the edge of the desk. He would explain that he is even more efficient with his phone, and there is an app that allows to him to control his computer via his mobile device. He would explain that he would have a nurse come every day at lunch time to feed him, and do anything else necessary, but that she would be professional and quiet and it had never been an issue at any of his internships. Those were some of the things Jimmy would sprinkle into the interview, and those were some of the things that made the job offers start popping up.
He accepted an offer for a job that was in Philadelphia, for a great company, with a good salary, and it was a position he wanted. He was ready to move into the next step of his life, when he got a call that would change everything.
Someone from the health services company that oversees Jimmy’s case called to inform him that if he were to take this job, he would lose the 115 hours of home health care Medicaid provided each week and be forced to pay for his aides out of his own pocket. In order to do that, Jimmy would have to earn over $100k per year just to break even.
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