Special?

It makes me angry that I cannot share many job adverts, let alone apply for numerous jobs. Because so many employers still seem unaware that the language they use is off-putting to disabled people and their allies. When I read ‘super star’ and ‘very special’ I shudder. Celebrating the more ‘’abled” tells me I’m not wanted. Conversely, it seems to leave important skills ignored. Do organisations not require workers who are experienced, knowledgeable and professional? People who maybe don’t see themselves as enthusiastic, outgoing or extrovert.

While I was working with Inclusion Scotland, one of our first recommendations to employers willing to recruit disabled workers was to make sure adverts were worded in ways that encourage applications from individuals who identify as Disabled. By avoiding personality-type descriptions, and favouring demonstrable skills, expertise and knowledge, because these can be evidenced by candidates in applications and at interviews.

When I read ‘super star’ I recoil. Furthermore, how could anyone prove it? Having interviewed many professionals myself, I’ve noticed how easy it is for people to brag at an interview and then fail to deliver on the hyperbole on the job. Surely there are more important skills and expertise to ask for than ‘enthusiastic’, ‘motivated’ or ‘special’.  If this sound disability-specific, it is not! It’s about best practice, fairness and seeking an inclusive culture more generally.  

It is a human rights failure that disabled professionals, their networks, communities and organisational [D/deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations] need to keep fighting to redress what is continually ignored. 30 years I’ve campaigned, worked and participated in a movement for change. I’m running low on fight, humour and energy.

Accepting a call to consider disabled people’s interests as a reality for practice raises issues of social justice relating to society and the environment. Dismissing the individual is bad enough, but denying the growing strength of an anti-ableist narrative because it is too complex or too complicated, is to ignore an interpretation of oppression that only serves to hurt us all. To prevent the extent of existing human rights abuse, collective pressure from many areas is needed, one that has recognises disabled people’s authority to demand change.  Daily anti-ableist activity is akin to moving forward while rubbing your tummy, patting your head and talking about the future. While the different activities address diverse priorities, they happen together, as interdependent movements with an overall legitimate intent to account for those marginalised by society. 

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