Unusual but (slightly) Expected Interview Experience

Working with NOWPDP, I’m learning the various aspects of disability and the experiences people with disabilities (PWDs) have. Putting aside the physical hurdles they have to face, the societal and attitudinal barriers shaped by our cultural norms are equally responsible for the exclusion of people with disabilities. Our lives lack the empathy that is required to understand and respect the wishes and choices of such persons and we often try to compensate for someone’s disability by being over-accommodating and making the situation awkward for everyone involved. I’ve heard of and seen such instances in my periphery but I had a first-hand experience when I tagged along with the NOWPDP team taking some candidates for job interviews at a major textile firm.

Having learnt about the different behaviors people adopt around PWDs in my sensitization session at the NOWPDP office and training center, I thought it would be interesting to see that play out in a real-life setting. As we entered the premise, it felt like we might not get to see any “special” treatment after all, but as the day progressed, I was able to identify quite a few things that one does not expect to happen in an interview setting.

We were escorted to a board room along with the candidates. There were three interviewers that casually shuffled in and out of the room. The first interviewer seemed to be getting most of the things right during the interaction but the other two did not show much interest in the whole activity. Although they did ask the candidates some questions, barely any of them were relevant to their employment. I had been told beforehand about the kind of awkward turns such interviews could take so it was interesting to see how the interviewers were treating the whole activity nonchalantly.

One thing that stood out was that we were served tea and snacks which one does not expect when they go for an interview. The whole team was treated like guests instead of candidates but we were grateful for the treatment because of the hot and humid weather. Secondly, the behavior of one of the interviewers was extremely dismissive and he made the ordeal sound like a favor he was doing for the candidates. It was discouraging to see that he did not care much for what the candidates were actually willing to work on and did not even ask them about their previous work experiences and capabilities. This was a little concerning as the employers made the interview sound like a charity case as opposed to an equal employment opportunity which it actually should’ve been. Towards the end, one of the interviewers started talking about why he was taking this step towards inclusivity and he just ended up preaching Islam to us. It turned into a very awkward conversation as we did not know what to make of this irrelevant information and it made me realize how people often make attempts towards inclusivity to feel better about themselves rather than to genuinely have an accessible, inclusive and accepting environment.

It was an interesting experience which gave me a better understanding of how our underlying ideas about disability influence our behavior. I saw people going over and beyond to make the experience more comfortable for the PWDs which somehow enforces the idea of them being outsiders. In conclusion I feel better equipped with the knowledge that when interacting with a Person with any disability, I should make them feel inclusive and welcome by treating them the same way as a person without disability.

Written by Fatima Zaidi (Intern at NOWPDP)

*Blogs do not have to correlate or match with the sentiments or ideology of NOWPDP in general. These are personal anecdotes and POVs of different people.

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