Wheelchair-bound Sounak Banerjee writes about his frustrating - and futile - attempts to get himself a job
'Ding dong!' The sound notifies receipt of yet another mail from a candidate seeking a job. The concerned HRD guy clicks the mouse and begins to study the CV. The top part appears pretty impressive, but as soon as his eye reaches the bottom section he has lost interest. That's the fate of my CV. And possibly those of countless other people who suffer from Becker's muscular dystrophy -- a disease that slowly turns a person into a wheelchair-bound 'invalid'.
I realised whilst studying for my Plus 2 that I would not be able to pursue engineering even as my peers managed to crack the top engineering spots. And so I took up chartered accountancy. But, as the years passed, my failing health took a toll on my efforts at self-coaching. Although I managed to pass my inter-CA exams, I'm still struggling to clear the finals.
My experiences with searching for a job range from pleasant to downright horrific.
When sending out my CV, I follow two approaches. In the first I say nothing about my disability; in the second I specifically mention my condition. As expected, I get a pretty good response from the former, which usually means getting a call for an interview. But as soon as I mention my disability the situation alters radically. Now the caller tells me she will have to talk with her HRD seniors and get back to me. This, for me, is where the road bifurcates unfavourably: the chances of my receiving a phone call are 0.01%. My excitement vanishes in a puff.
When I follow the second approach, my chances of receiving a call are only 10%. Usually, in such cases, the caller is the employer or the HRD head himself who grills me with questions ranging from my physical appearance to my ability to attend office regularly. If, during such a conversation, I even mention the words 'flexible timings', the whole discussion ends abruptly.
I once decided to venture out for a walk-in interview. My wild decision arose from the fact that the company concerned was an undisputed leader in the finance field, my qualifications matched the requirements (B Com/M Com/Inter CA/CA), and the number of posts vacant was large, around 30. There was no question of my being rejected outright. Or so I thought.
As I am unable to commute by public transport I proceeded to the interview ceremoniously, complete with car, driver, snacks and a parent. Like a king, as any normal person would perhaps say. We reached the place well in time, but discovered that thanks to some construction activity going on right in front of the gate we could not drive into the premises in our car. People were entering and leaving the building on an uneven, dusty path -- a Himalayan task for me. Seeing the look on my face, my father decided to go in first and hand over my CV to the HRD. After going through my CV, I thought, they would call me for an interview. I would then attempt to walk into the building.
Ten minutes passed... then another five... then two. My eyes stayed on the gate. They must have liked my CV and were busy arranging for an interview... If they were considerate, perhaps it could take place in the car itself, I thought.
I saw my father walking towards me. Before I could say anything he got into the car and told the driver to drive away. I asked him what the matter was. He replied that after going through my CV they had told him they were looking for candidates with all four qualifications -- B Com, M Com, CA Inter and CA. I was shocked. How had the requirement 'or' (/) suddenly become 'all'? This new style of rejection completely shattered my confidence. And with it my dream of ever being employed.
What employers and HRD people fail to understand is that disabled people are often better workers than so-called 'normal' people. They do not gossip, they are highly dedicated and loyal, they have the urge to excel, and, most importantly, they do not change jobs frequently. Keeping all this in mind, employers, especially large corporates and MNCs, should provide people with disabilities greater opportunities for employment in their established world-class work environments. Till then, disabled people will remain like asteroids -- remnants of a planet that failed to form.
InfoChange News & Features, March 2006