Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Trying to make molehills out of mountains: please employ me

Do you consider yourself to have a disability?

I have no idea. I have a gammy heart. I've been dealing with depression to varying extents since I was fifteen. Standing up on public transport has, on a number of occasions, made me faint. I've been exhausted for the last two years. I have no clean-cut diagnosis to explain either of the last two; my GP likes to respond to pretty much any ailment (including supraventricular tachycardia, postural syncope and recurrent ear infections) by raising my anti-depressant dosage (but, lord alive, that is a story for another time).

The Equality Act 2010, defines a disability as:
“A physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities” An effect is long-term if it has lasted, or is likely to last, more than 12 months.

Do you consider yourself to have a disability?

It's only very recently I've started to feel comfortable using the label 'depression': it's not that bad, I'm just tired, I'm just a bit sad, it's not like I'm hacking'n'slashing or wanting to die or anything, I'm just tired, tired, tired... And 'disability' is such a loaded term: we see it as an either/or distinction, where one is either Disabled or Not Disabled, the end. What if by claiming the 'disabled' label I'm muscling in on an identity I'm not entitled to? It's not like I'm in a wheelchair, for heaven's sake. Because the wheelchair, the white cane, are the borders beyond which they live, where we keep disability, in a box, separate from our lives.

Substantial ... normal... impairment...

I don't know. Is it substantial enough? Does the life I'm able to lead - able either to commit fully to my job, sacrificing my social life, or be there for my friends but start to slip at work, but never both - fall within the bounds of 'normal'?

Because however I end up organising this in my own mind, I don't trust potential employers not to think - whether consciously or not, Equality Act or no - "woah, no crazy ladies here please, can't trust them to administer our database!"


  1. (I was gonna say something else at the start of this comment but realised I would've been blabbing about someone else's private matters in public so will say when I see you instead.) I reckons what I might be tempted to do though I don't actually know what I really would in reality - don't declare it in an application, do after you start, ahahaaaa. We have just signed up to this at work, as well as the Two Ticks kitemark, which means every applicant meeting essential criteria who declares a disability will be invited to interview.
    Also: one of my bazillion secret aims in life is to spread the fact that only 5% of disabled (under the DDA/Equality Act definition) people use wheelchairs.

  2. This is an interesting issue, because I definitely, definitely, definitely consider my depression to be bad enough to be a disability. It just-- it's pretty bad. If I didn't take meds, I wouldn't be able to function at all like I do. But... I take meds. And they make me almost normal. I'm still a little less functional than your average bear, but I'm fine, for the most part... and then comes the issue of, well, if I said that I had a disability-- would they hire me? I don't think I'll ever claim it while I work, because I'll be working in moderately high-stress, confidential areas that are very competitive. And I can do it, on my meds, but I wonder if they wouldn't think I can't.