12 December 2018
I have always disclosed my diagnosis of autism at the earliest possible stage of application for jobs. This has served me well in more recent years as I have become more knowledgeable about my rights but, looking back with this knowledge, I now know that the treatment I received from some (potential and actual) employers was unlawful. After having a face-to-face interview for a job in a well-known and national charity, I was told I needed to have a second telephone interview. A second (and telephone based) interview was difficult enough for me to manage but when the second interview took place I quickly realised it wasn't a follow-up to choose between close-run candidates but a series of questions forcing me to either discuss and demonstrate how my autism wouldn't "get in the way of the job" or to give up on the job entirely. I had to explain a wide range of my traits and answer questions about how I would manage myself to make sure it didn't affect the people I would be working with - other young people with disabilities. Then when I did explain my coping strategies and the supports I used, they asked what I would do if I could not use those supports. I didn't know at the time that employers could not do this.
I didn't do anything because I didn't know what they had done wasn't right and I needed a job. I was young and did not know what my rights were.
Confused, despondent and like I wasn't good enough. I already had low self-esteem because of other difficulties in my life and this left me feeling even worse than before.
As I said, I needed the job and I did get it (and was good enough at it that I am now a manager in the same field but for another, more inclusive employer) but the entire role was tinged with this unpleasantness because of how I was treated in the interview stage. In my time there I did advocate for changes in practice when I came across other practices that excluded disabled people in various ways but very little changed.
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