Interview: Employment in SC

Intro/Boris: It’s been 10,511 days since the American Disability Act was passed and you are parked in the Access Aisle.

Boris: Good morning everybody, and thanks for joining us, my name is Boris Klarić and you’re listening to the Access Aisle! Here with me today is Able South Carolina’s Employment Services Specialist miss Cali Sandel. Good morning! So tell us a little bit about what it is that you do. What’s your position where do you work?

Cali: So I work here at Able South Carolina, I am an employment services coordinator, which means that I partner with our consumers, I like to call them job seekers, I partner with job seekers and we work on the skills that will build up to their ultimate successful entering into an employment situation, advancing an employment situation, and then a little bit of job retention, to helping them keep jobs where things might be going a little rocky.

B: Okay, and what brought you to this position, what else have you done?

C: So this is employment services for the last eight years. That’s all I have ever done. I used to work at a PR agency where I did some more work on the employer side of the house, but through networking and hopefully, being good at my job. Able South Carolina hired me, and so now I’m doing more of a consumer focused I only work with job seekers, I don’t go and speak on people’s behalf because people are capable of speaking for themselves oftentimes, and so we empower them to do that.

B: And this takes on a special connotation with you, because you’re not just helping people with disabilities, you are a person with a disability.

C: Yes, yes there’s some instant credit that happens here. I have been blind since birth. I’m not totally blind. Like anything else, blindness falls on the spectrum, but I don’t see very well. I use a lot of technology and so often times I’ll get somebody on the phone and they’ll say, “Well I I can’t work because I’m blind and I kind of check in and then have to have a little education moment, but yeah, I do have a disability, and I work most of the…

B: So let’s start… Let’s start with just a little bit about you. What has been your experience and trying to find and maintain employment as a person with a disability?

C: I went to a small university, and that’s where my first job was. The IT department and the disabled student office had circled up around me in a really beautiful way, without me fully realizing how awesome they were until later, so when it came time for me to get my first job I applied like everybody else, I had networked within my department. The IT department got my assistant technology set up and I got to start just like anybody else would. And I was the person who would call you at dinner. “I am Cali and I’m calling from with the university on behalf of educational television. We’re calling people denied to ask them some questions about the upcoming election. Do you have a few minutes?” Click and you do it again. So you develop a pretty thick skin and some de-escalation and some negotiating, and some persuasion telephone skills, still use in your job do that absolutely, it seems like a funny first job, but I learned a lot of valuable skills by doing cold political calls.

B: Kind of building on that experience, what do you hear from job seekers that are coming to you looking for their first job in a lot of cases? What do you hear, how does that story kind of mirror mimic your own?

C: I think everybody’s story is different. I know that getting experience when a lot of positions require experience, where do you get experience if all the jobs require experience? We run into that a lot. I think for a lot of people, with people with disabilities myself included, a lot of people’s first jobs are waiter or pizza delivery driver. And those are things that I was never going to be very good at or excel at. So the opportunity for this first jobs becomes a partnership of sorts, networking being connected to the right service providers. I think if your job is to use the office equipment, but that office equipment is above your head, for people who use wheelchairs that becomes a barrier. So I think having a, a community, a network, whether that be a natural network of people just that you know and our friends with that work of service providers as a… Sometimes we need a little bit of help and everybody needs help every now and again.

B: And so a lot of times, this help comes in the form of reasonable accommodation.

C: Yes, yes, that’s a much better way of putting it, yes. I was very fortunate that the reasonable accommodations that I needed were in place and happened really quickly and naturally, but I knew what to ask for, I knew what I had used coming up through a school E-A and A… And a self-advocate, which is again something that I took for granted that I was able to do that I knew what I needed. Sometimes people just don’t know what they need to be successful.

B: But yeah, not a combination, a really “portneuf a better word ignorance about what to request or the availability of reasonable accommodation. Is that something that’s kind of common place that you found with a first time job, seekers with disabilities?

C: Yeah, assuming Ignorance is just a lack of education then yeah, people don’t know what they don’t know or their internal network. If you’re the only person in your family and your school, and your community with the disability and you haven’t gone and met other people are done research to see…”Oh, I can do this thing, if I do it this way.” Then you might have been told your whole life You can’t do this thing, you can’t use a computer, you can’t use a copy machine, you can’t do a laundry list of jobs. There’s very few things I can’t do. I’m never gonna be a school bus driver, I’m never going to be an air traffic controller. I probably wouldn’t make a great firefighter for a variety of reasons, but there’s a much longer list of things that I can do most of which were a reasonable accommodation, and I have to know what to ask for. I have to know that that thing exists.

B: Okay, and how big of a boost do you think that the presence of a reasonable accommodation makes and helping someone maintain and gain employment?

C: It’ll make or break a situation just hands down. There’s no question about it. I could not do my job without reasonable accommodations, I couldn’t live independently without some alternative techniques at technology or even non-technology things. I’m sure there’s a better word for that. Somewhere. Low-tech, there’s high tech, and there’s low tech, low tech is the box that I have my computer stay in sitting on. It was a 20 box on Amazon, but it allows me to not go home with a neck ache and allows me to be more productive. It’s a box all the way up to the super expensive software that goes on my computer that reads and magnifies for me. There’s a spectrum, but sometimes something as simple as a box 20 with of a box, can make or break a situation.

B: Have you experienced or encountered any kind of resistance to those requests for reasonable commendation from employers?

C: No, no, my early jobs were in a university setting, where I had a great network of professors who saw what I was capable of with the right tools, and then an internship where I had partnered with the Commission for the Blind and they were on the ball and delivered my technology so I didn’t really have to make an ask, VR provided that for me. And then I went to work on for a VR agency where accommodations came naturally and now I’m here at Able. So I don’t, but now so not a whole lot of resistance. Sometimes you get assistance from it. I’ve worked with some funny IT departments, where the third party guy, who doesn’t work in the office who doesn’t know me who hasn’t seen what the technology does when it doesn’t play nicely with their systems. I’ve gotten some resistance from it, but it’s always been something we can navigate.

B: What’s one piece of professional advice that you’d give to a first time job seeker with a disability who’s trying to navigate the process from beginning to end, from hiring from trying to apply? What’s one piece of advice that you would give to them?

C: Oh, that’s a big one. I find myself repeating two things. It’s a big question. I’m allowed to give you two answers. Yeah, okay, so the first one when you are on the job search people get jobs because they know other people. And I actually have made in turns repeat this repeat after me. People get jobs because they know other people. You can apply online and certainly, yes, that that is something worth doing but historically, networking is where it’s at. Whether it be social networking… Or networking in person. People get jobs because they know other people. The other one is that competence with the P competence looks good on everybody and confidence with an F. looks good on everybody. And when you’re interacting with potential employers and even once you’re on the job you should always strive to be competent. The world’s definition of competent not whatever bar has been set for you, but the bar that’s been set for your peers and confidence looks good on everybody. If I’m comfortable with my disability, if I’m comfortable with my knowledge skills and abilities, I can show you better than I can tell you. Confidence looks good on everybody in a job interview and advancing and retaining employment. A lot of times it’s being part of the team and being friendly. And do people believe that you’re an asset? And did they like coming and asking you questions? So competence looks good on everybody and confidence looks good on everybody. People get jobs because they know other people.

Transition music plays

Asha: Hi, my name is Asha, I’m 22 years old, and I’m looking for an internship to start my career. The first real, real job I worked was a belt years ago at Subway and it was an interesting experience. The application process was interesting. I think, I over thought, a lot of it, they were asking me questions about how I interacted with people and was the life of the party and what I really wanted to say I was like, “Well I don’t tend to go to parties, ’cause I get over simulated and I can’t handle them”. Qualified to see if they would hire me. I have no idea. It seemed to me that I didn’t think I’d be asking me so much of so many personal questions for a job where I didn’t think it really mattered if I was the life at the party, but I did okay, I apparently I actually found some tips in an online support group for people to developmental disabilities, and I guess a lot of them felt they’re kind to questions because maybe other people would know not to answer them a certain way and a lot of us would kind of… I don’t wanna say fall for it at least the first time and… ’cause I got some fair warning. I was like, “Oh okay, I know how to answer this. I don’t think it was on purpose, but it’s still a… Something that I guess a lot of us would struggle with at the interview process was fine. They were group interviews, and I had too on how to the terming I guess, for lack of a better word, I did not disclose about my disabilities the, I guess, I was afraid too, I didn’t want… This is before I was really taking pride and I so I… And I didn’t feel like I needed any accommodations even though the only reason I kind of selected to work there is because I knew that there are a lot of times before I knew that the environment was okay and the lighting was low, and I wouldn’t be able to handle it, if I were in a place with more lighting etcetera. I probably have to ask to do something like… Where sunglasses or something like that. And so, I had purposely picked a place that I was already somewhat I guess accommodating for my needs, I was glad that I had seen someone post about their careful employment before so that I had some idea of what to expect and that I wasn’t caught completely off God. Or then the same mistake that the people who make the post made the same mistake day that they spared me from making that mistake by sharing their experience.

B: So if you could give one piece of advice to somebody that was in your position and just looking for a job for the first time, what would you tell them?

Asha: I would definitely say to definitely look for those resources where people have gone through it themselves, and then listen to them. Your advice and kind of incorporate that into your job search if they had success with what they’re doing and it vibes with you, then I would definitely say I do some research, seek out people who’ve done it before Go for it, but go for it, with confidence. ed0 Li

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