(Author's Note: Company names have been omitted.)
You're probably asking yourself, "What could forgiveness have to do with working from home?" In my case, I'm convinced it was the key factor in landing my job as a renewal specialist with a company. About two months before I applied for a job with this company, two very important and significant things happened to me.
First, I applied for a job of inbound sales for a company selling subscriptions for satellite television. With the digital conversion coming up, this seemed like a good job. I sent in my resume and the owner of the company called me and we went through the standard phone interview. He dripped friendliness and gushed how perfect I would be for the job. I had a great resume. I had great phone presence. He took me on a virtual tour of the web site from where I would take orders, providing me with log-in information and the web site address. There was just one web site he couldn't show me because it required special log-in information that would have to be set up. He asked if we could meet to do paperwork. It was at this point that I disclosed that I am blind. You would have thought someone had thrown a bucket of ice on him, his attitude changed so fast. He said, "Let me check on that log-in information and get back to you." I waited a day for him to call me back. I called him back twice and never heard from him.
Since the position was that of an independent contractor, I had no recourse. There was nothing I could do but get angrier and angrier. Angry at him for being a jerk. Angry at myself. Angry at my circumstances. Was there some different way I could have handled the situation?
The next incident happened when I had an interview with a national company that hires home workers as employees for customer service and sales positions. I passed the computer assessment test and scheduled an interview with a recruiter. I did great on the prior background and work history questions. I could answer basic computer questions and my very quiet home office met their requirements. Then came the web site portion of the interview. I was told to go to this web site and start reading where the red text is. My heart started beating fast. I racked my brain for the screen-reader command and was relieved when my mind grasped the elusive keyboard command. I scrolled painstakingly down the page paragraph by paragraph to find that red text.
The next thing I had to do was go to this company's web site and put my mouse over the first basket and tell her what the name of the basket was. I felt panic. The basket was a picture with no words. All my screen reader would say is "graphic 43257 link." Had I been able to use the mouse, the mouse would sit over the basket picture and display the name of the basket. With a sinking feeling, I told the recruiter I could not literally see the basket and I am blind. There was a long pause. She said, "Let me instant message my supervisor." I could hear her typing in the background. I then got the bright idea of pressing enter on the basket link and it took me to a new page that showed in words the basket name; it was "anniversary set." So I was able to give her the answer she wanted.
We continued with the interview. At the end, the recruiter said I would be going on a waiting list. She said that they can't hire anyone using a screen reader because you have to have 8 or more windows open at one time and using alt-tab keyboard commands takes too long to move between applications. They were working on making things more accessible and she was sorry. They'd be in touch.
Again, I was angry. Isn't "I'll be in touch" the same as "we'll call you"? Did they make the interview so visually oriented that it's almost impossible to pass if you are using a screen reader? Why do I have to be enslaved by a technology that is two steps behind the rest of the world? I'm smart enough. I am good enough. This is so unfair!
This time, because the position in question was for employee, I went to a lawyer and was told I could file a complaint against the company with the EEOC. They said I would probably lose because with some research they found that other blind people had filed against this company with the result of one win and several losses because this company was in the process of trying to make their technology accessible. I decided not to file my claim. All I wanted was a job, not some long drawn out paper trail with this problem hanging over my head waiting for months for resolution which at best would say we'll give you a job some day whenever it's accessible. How would this affect my peace of mind? How would it affect how I dealt with my children? So I let it go.
I still had the hurt and the anger. I vented to my husband. The next day I sat down at my computer on the advice of a friend and let my feelings pour out through my hands at the keyboard. I locked the door so the kids wouldn't see me cry and I wrote to God, to the makers of access technology for making me feel stupid, to all the close-minded recruiters on the planet, to life for making it so hard to get some silly $9 an hour job, and on and on. I wrote with tears streaming down my face until I started to feel better. I wrote until I was spent of emotion. I wrote until I realized that technology is only technology and just because it doesn't work, it doesn't make me less smart or less competent. I wrote until I could start to remember that not all people are close-minded and I could think of all the people in my life who really could think outside the box. These were very cathartic moments for me. I could let these two incidents go and move on to the point that I didn't become bitter or let these negative hurt and angry emotions affect me on my next interview.
Two months later I interviewed and got the job with this company. I was relaxed and open-minded, and I have no doubt those positive feelings came through to the recruiter. If I had stayed in that bitter, angry place, I am sure I would have been more hesitant, less confident, and more abrupt and possibly off-putting to the recruiter.
Technological issues are our biggest barrier to obtaining employment, but I refuse to feel denigrated or less competent because of its limits. I'm better at thinking outside my own box now and I know this will always be an issue. I am better able to handle it by forgiving technology itself, the close-minded people in the world who can't see past themselves to try something new or different, and by appreciating my own strengths and the strengths that already exist in my life. I am free of the weight of anger and bitterness, and it gives me more energy to move on and to try new things for myself.
So, if you end up in a place like me, feeling frustrated or powerless, look within and find your way out of those emotions, whether it's writing them down or some other way. It was worth all those tears to get to a better place and peace of mind.
Work at home for the visually impaired is now online at www.wahvi.com.
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