2016 in Review: Disabled People Need Not Apply

I’m going to post a bit about some of my favorite pieces from 2016, starting with Al Jazeera America, which sadly shut down in April of this year.

Last February, though, I became aware of an ad for The Arc – TX, which had anti-disability clauses written into the requirements. I blogged about it, called for comment, and they quickly changed course. But when I posted, a philosophy friend on Facebook said that she had seen similar clauses mandating walking, sitting, standing, seeing, hearing, and carrying heavy weight in professorial jobs.

I was baffled, but dug into higher education job sites, and found that Human Resource Departments around the country, especially in public systems (most of New Mexico, all of Arkansas, some of Texas, some of MA), had stuck these boilerplate clauses into all their ads.

If you’re not disabled, you probably never noticed. Believe me, though – or better yet believe the people I quoted – if you are in a wheelchair and the job says, “you have to walk,” or even “climb stairs and ladders,” – you don’t apply.

So I wrote:

Unintentional discrimination is still discrimination. Boilerplate clauses keep disabled people from even applying for jobs. “Requirement creep,” likely put in place by HR professionals eager to avoid trouble, exacerbates discrimination and could, if someone had the time and money, lead to legal trouble. Without deliberate change, unemployment will continue to be the biggest problem facing Americans with disabilities. It’s time for employers to take a hard look at their hiring practices.

Here are the pieces:

The first was in particular extremely widely read. More importantly, for the next month, I received email after email from universities telling me that they were changing their policies. 
I’m blogging this today to ask you to keep an eye on these requirements. I’m happy to do the work contacting HR departments if you see more ableist requirements. We change this institution by institution.

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