Getting a job in the information industry with a wheelchair in tow

While this blog mostly focuses on aspects of librarianship that are a little outside the box, so far most of what I have written has been primarily on providing services to the LGBTI community. Today I want to do something a bit different.

Some of you may be aware I have difficulty with mobility. I have been using crutches to walk increasingly since the beginning of 2010, and have used a wheelchair as needed since March 2012.

My current employer, FPWA Sexual Health Services, does not have an issue with this. Considering one of the services FPWA offer is sexual health education for people with intellectual disabilities, and the promotion of sexuality and disability, I have never felt that there was a chance I would be discriminated against because I can’t shelve the returns on the top shelves..

This year the Health Department received a 10% budget cut, and as they are our main funding body, those cuts have passed on to us. This means that in April, when my contract with FPWA runs out, they are unable to fund an extra staff member. I am not alone in this. A number of the Education Unit and the Clinical Services staff have also had hours cut, contracts not renewed, or been forced to resign.

So now what do I do? Before I got my wheelchair, I used to apply for jobs, and not tell them I used crutches to walk. I would just limp heavily and take a handful of pain meds every day, that didn’t really work. After all, there is no way to prove it, but the moment you tick the box that says I have a disability or a medical condition, you know your CV goes to the bottom of the pile. Legally, I don’t even have to declare my disability until after I have a job offer, but a wheelchair is a bit hard to hide.

I am worried about finances. My partner is autistic and has bipolar disorder, and is unable to work. Right now, we are living off my wages, her pension, and my meagre Centrelink Youth Allowance. Yet things are still pretty tight when we get to the end of each fortnight.

Because of my income levels, my Centrellink payments won’t change when I lose my job. This means that we are going to be relying on around $1000 per fortnight, for two people. That works out to $250 per person, per week. There is never much left after rent, and we are still trying to save money for the wedding.

I am worried about transport. Most library jobs are in public libraries, or in schools. Wherever I work, it needs to be easily accessible by public transport from the city. I can’t drive, and I am not eligible for taxi vouchers.

I am worried about my studies. I only have four units left to complete, and I am doing two units per semester (that is, Part Time). Hopefully, I should graduate at the end of next year, but usually you can’t get the librarian positions until your degree is complete.

I want to work. I want to support my family. But when a local government official looks at me, they see someone who can’t reach the bookshelves. They don’t see someone with an education, a family to support, a wedding to save for, and a drive to succeed. All they see is the chair.

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One response »

  1. I feel your pain – like you, I have increasing mobility problems and use a walking stick, and can see the day coming when I need two. Although my job is secure, I do worry about what it will do to my promotion prospects. Good luck with the study, job hunt and wedding.

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