Dayna is a recent graduate in communications from the University of Calgary. She has been an active member of the CNIB National Youth Council since its inception. In this blog, she shares her experiences applying, interviewing and working for a company as an individual with sight loss.
For more information on the council, visit www.cnib.ca/nyc/
When I graduated from university and started applying for jobs, I was not aware of how much difference an employer’s attitude towards accommodation would make. I believed, like most people, that as long as my manager was generally comfortable with me and met the bare minimum of my needs; that was enough. I had not even considered the impact an institutional attitude could make. I did not know that some organizations would go so far as to hire a consultant to ensure I could access every accommodation specific to my individual needs.
When I applied to RBC, it was a revelation for me to realize that applications submitted under the “disabled new graduate” tab were not just dumped in a virtual trash bin somewhere. They were assessed, along with the others submitted for the position, but with an eye to accommodation during the entire application and hiring process. What could be done to make the applicant more comfortable? What could be done to ensure the fairness of the evaluation? It was this fairness that brought a new meaning to ‘inclusion’.
If I thought RBC’s application process was fair, things were only just getting started. Once I was accepted to the RBC Career Launch Program, I was encouraged to speak up at any time. Optimal solutions for accommodation, when I didn’t present them right away, were sought out. If neither I, nor the accommodations specialist, knew what a possible adaptation could be, it was fully researched and the options presented. I actually had to be encouraged on more than one occasion to accept the better option for the help I needed because I was so used to coping with what was available at the time. All of this was done with my full participation and under the strictest confidentiality. Not even my manager knew anything about my disability until I showed up on my first day and told her myself. When her role changed over and she was transitioning her replacement in, she needed my written consent to even address the subject with her replacement.
Once I started my position at RBC and was oriented, any time my managers heard of a presentation to do with diversity and inclusion or accessibility, I was given the option to participate. I was offered the opportunity to have a voice in conversations that affected people who were just like me.
Between the power of RBC’s attitude towards diversity and accommodation, and my three managers’ willingness to see me as a person and not as a problem, I have been blessed with all sorts of opportunities.
If you are reading this and you have a disability, I bet you think this sounds like a dream. At the very least a minority of organizations would be willing to do this for some random contractor. Well I pose to you the question which has plagued my mind since I stopped being so utterly blown away by the experience. Why not?
Why shouldn’t I be accommodated? Sighted people get lights and computer screens. Hearing people get phones and computer speakers. What is so different in me that makes me believe that it is asking too much for me to be comfortable at work? To let my colleagues relax enough where we can have open conversations about my experiences. In this one experience with RBC, I was just the same as every other applicant. Anything I needed to be successful was provided to me.
I have thought about this long and hard and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn all of these neat things about my own preconceptions about disability and accommodation. I have come to the realization that there is no reason not to support me so that I can do my job to the best of my ability. That way I can be great at my job, not because of my disability but because of my personal capabilities. I would like to recognize RBC for the phenomenal support. I am so lucky to work with this organization. I would also like to put forward a challenge to anyone with a disability who is willing to settle for anything less than exactly what they need. Why? Or why not?