It is a day of the week at a certain time and I am on my way to you. Just like I was last week, last month, and last year. It seems as if I am always on the way to you. Today, I am wearing my favorite blouse – the deep purple, V-neck – the same one I wore last month – along with my black pants and black heels. I have a binder with me today; not the one I came with two months ago – this one is a dark green and contains different – although equally important – papers.
Although I usually get to you by Lyft or paratransit, today – like last month – my mom is taking me.
I am meeting you in an office building today; an office building is the usual place – but there have been times you asked me to meet you at a restaurant or café.
I am an hour early. I always try to get to you early. This allows me to find the room you are waiting for me in. Sometimes it is easy – the directions I receive are simple and to the point; other times the directions are harder to understand – given to me by someone who confuses their left and right and mixes up floor or room numbers.
Just as the location of our meetings are different, so are you. This time you are two women. Last time you were a man. The time before that you were two men and a woman.
Regardless of location and who you are during the meeting, your reaction to me is always the same: surprised. I am expected but somehow, I am always unexpected.
It amazes me the different ways you show your surprise. Silence. Annoyance. Awkwardness. Lack of a hand shake. Confusion. Staring. Anger. Amusement. Laughter. Defensive. A full body embrace. Avoidance of touch.
Today you greet me by remarking on my sunglasses. Not the color or style – but the fact that I have them on. “I was confused at first – but now I understand.” You say this laughing. You shake my hand after.
This is one of your better greetings. You once asked me if I’m sure I’m who I say I am: “You’re Miss Scott – applying for Employment Specialist? The one I spoke on the phone last month?”; I had to assure you twice that yes, I am her. One time you said that the position has already been filled but you would love to talk to me. Another time you told me how shocked you were when I walked in to the office. Another time you told me right away that you were unsure I would be a great fit (that was the only time I let you see me cry).
Our meetings are different too.
Sometimes we go over my qualifications, education, and experience. You coo over my list of publications. A few times you caressed over how great it was that I was pursuing my masters in this field and how much it would help with this job. There were moments where you flirted with the idea of me being a visible symbol to all the employees – my work ethic and personality will be sure to arouse a better work environment and would give them ample opportunities to help those like me. Once you even invited me into your confidence – amid gushing over what you perceived to be my successes in life and intoxicated on me and my abilities, your curiosity was excited: how do I cope with my disability? (That was the first time I felt like walking out on you.)
Sometimes we briefly talked about my education, qualifications and experience. There were times where you refused to even go over them. When you didn’t want to talk about what makes me a great fit for the job, you talked about how hard it would be here for me. You were only looking out for me. No one would respect me. No one would confide in me. How could I do this job anyway? It would be too difficult on me. You told me once that I just wasn’t a right fit, “because you are blind,” you said. You once told me I would be a liability (that was the first time I showed you my anger).
Our relationship has always been difficult. I dread seeing you sometimes. There were times where I would cry the morning of – hopeless and exhausted over trying to be good enough for you. There are times where I leave you with no expectation of you calling me back.
Sometimes your website isn’t accessible with my screen reader. I always get through that though – with Aira or my family and friends. And you know what? You pick me. You always choose me – sometimes I get an email or phone call the day I submit my application – you do like me.
There are times your building isn’t accessible – lack of braille at office doors. I always manage to get to you though. Always.
You love me on paper. You love me during our phone interviews. There were even times where you wanted me enough to meet up with you again. But it always ends.
I used to think it was me. I knew it wasn’t my background – you liked it enough to schedule a meeting. So, there was something about me that put you off. Was I too stiff, too slow to shake your hand, were my sunglasses dirty or too dark or not dark enough? Is it because I flinched away from you when you tried to guide me to your office by holding my hand? Was it because my “no, that’s not necessary,” too forceful when you tried to stop me from running into a trashcan – that was at the end of the hall when we were at the beginning of the hall – by putting your arm around my waist? Was it because I was open about my disability during the interview and invited you to ask me anything? Was it because I never brought my disability up?
No matter what I did, you were never satisfied. You were always surprised and either enthusiastic or distant. You’re not interested in knowing that I am blind beforehand – you never call me for an interview when I check the I-am-disabled box. You even try to turn me away during the description of physical demands and requirements: vision abilities including close vision and ability to adjust focus or must have a valid driver’s license.
You won’t let me show you what I can do for the company. You are not interested. When I try, I am too pushy, financially demanding, too much of a liability. You tell me my disability doesn’t matter, then give me a list of requirements (ignoring – or not caring – that they are easily dealt with using assistive technology), write out the Equal Employment Opportunity Statement, then ask me to check the box that will make it easier for you to narrow your search.
Our relationship has never been easy. I no longer blame myself. You are the one to blame. I am here, willing to work – but you refuse to look further then your ignorant prejudice.
Do I have my faults? Yes. There are times where I am nervous. There are times where I fail to answer a question correctly. However, you have given me plenty of examples where my disability is all you will see.
I am tired of being the surprise that never gets old and a symbol to jack off to or – at best – a waste of time – or at worse – a potential lawsuit. I am here and willing to work. All I need is a chance.