On Thursday, Oct. 10, I decided to look up “disability reporting jobs” on Google, with hopes of receiving information regarding job openings for journalists with disabilities such as myself.
The results that popped up were articles about employment issues involving people with disabilities and how Social Security can help if you have one. Although none of this was relevant to my situation, I did find one article intriguing.
Editor and Producer for HuffPost, Wendy Lu, wrote an op-ed about the issues she encounters being a journalist with a disability. This really struck a chord with me.
Lu mentioned how certain job requirements that are not entirely essential to the job posting turn away people with disabilities from even applying for the position. She noted a Newsday job posting listed requirements such as lifting 25 pounds, being able to sit at a desk for eight hours and to have “excellent” communication both verbally and in writing. Job postings like this have ableist requirements that discriminate against disabled folks based on strength and mobility.
But if you’re someone who cannot type 50 words per minute because of a disability, there is software designed to let you speak into a microphone and let you “write” articles that way.
Lu stressed her concerns about the job description on Twitter and a spokesperson for Newsday tweeted back saying they removed the posting because it was “an error.”
This response is already egregious enough, but how is anyone with a disability supposed to take any potential employer seriously if they respond like this?
Yes, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act, but that is not enough. The act limits discrimination on the basis of disability in the workforce and states that an employer cannot ask you how severe your disability is; however, workplace discrimination happened to Lu and who knows how many other people with disabilities. Filing a complaint would be too much of a hassle and people are afraid to speak up. In Lu’s article, Robyn Powell, a disability attorney, said, “When you’re applying for a job, the last thing you want to do is rock the boat.”
I feel that the fear of speaking up comes from this place of ultra-acknowledgment of one’s disability. But at the same time, if people don’t speak up, nothing will change.
People with disabilities crawled up the steps of Capitol Hill to make a statement back in 1990. This was a prelude to the ADA passing, which became known as the “Capitol Crawl.”
Yet it seems like many barriers still exist, even at our university. I’ve seen bathrooms without automatic doors, elevators that break down pretty frequently and a walkway leading towards the front of Frey Hall with no ramp at the end of it. Students must go to the back of the building to access a ramp. There is literally a non-accessible sign at the front of the walkway. Is Stony Brook lacking the manpower required to install a ramp at the end of a walkway?
Going back to the issues Lu mentioned, which really hinders on able-bodied people’s ideas of what disability is or isn’t supposed to look like, legislation could potentially fix these problems. But that requires competency — which many institutions lack.
I am talking about simple things. Things like nice, paved walkways, elevators in buildings with two or more floors, automatic doors for entrances to buildings and bathrooms — bussing that is inclusive for wheelchair users or people with other mobility aids.
The university already saved $1.5 million from the deal with Amazon to put a bookstore in the library a few years ago. It is obvious that the university can save money to make buildings more accessible.
Shiny new buildings don’t erase existing issues; they make existing issues stick out even more. Stony Brook — fix this broken down campus so that maybe we the disabled can get a taste of what ease of access can and should feel like. I already hurt enough just having a disability. Don’t make me lose more faith in my prospects for life after college due to our decrepit infrastructure.