David Perry, one of the top journalists currently writing on disability rights, reported on this whopper:
The Arc of Texas, an organization dedicated to inclusion, advocacy and disability rights, is hiring a new CEO. Their job announcement, as originally posted, made one thing clear: Disabled people need not apply.
Towards the bottom of the application, a strange list of criteria under the headline, “Physical and Mental Requirements,” included “Seeing, Hearing/Listening, Clear speech, Ability to move distances between offices and workspaces, Driving.” The next post, for another well-paid leadership position, added “manual dexterity, lifting up to 25 pounds, carrying up to 25 pounds” to the list, making it even more restrictive.
What’s a disability rights organization doing pre-emptively discriminating against disabled individuals in their most important hiring? And is this kind of language — which can be found in job postings from the tech sector, the non-profit world, and countless academic jobs — even legal?
(Note: at some point Arc edited the job requirements to remove the “physical and mental requirements.” Not clear when this happened relative to Perry’s article.)
I have to confess that, as a (mostly) able-bodied person, the “Seeing, Hearing/Listening, Clear speech, Ability to move distances between offices and workspaces, Driving” part didn’t initially seem discriminatory to me. But technology now exists that enables persons with visual impairments, etc., to take on management duties. And then there’s that “lifting/carrying 25 pounds” thing, which you see everywhere. I myself have (under instruction) included that in job descriptions, knowing all the while it was ridiculous. (I was hiring for non-physically-taxing office work, and also would be hard pressed myself to lift 25 pounds, much less do anything useful with it.) But I never connected the dots to see how discriminatory it was. So I’m glad that’s getting called out.
In his article, Perry lists several other examples of job descriptions that include discriminatory boilerplate, including a couple for teaching jobs that demand color vision and the ability to climb stairs. And here’s the worst one he found:
“The Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Tarrant County College District, an office that includes oversight over disability issues, must be able to meet “physical demands” such as the need to “sit; use hands to finger, handle, or feel objects, tools, or controls; reach with hands and arms; and talk or hear.” What’s more, the employee is “occasionally required to stand; walk; climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; and taste or smell,” as well as “frequently lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.” And “Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception, and the ability to adjust focus.””
He notes that, “Every category in the Director of Diversity posting is listed as essential, even the ability to taste or smell.”
People with disabilities experience high levels of unemployment, and, as Perry notes, “Boilerplate clauses keep disabled people from even applying for jobs.” He also notes that they often represent an ADA violation, so it would be great for everyone involved, including the organizations doing the hiring, to ditch them.