Rolling into interviews: A disabled person’s journey of finding a job

Emily Brown, Senior Columnist

Since the 1980s, a Walmart greeter has stood (or sat, depending on the person’s ability) at the front of the store and greeted customers as they entered. Due to the nature of this job, many people with disabilities and chronic illnesses have it. If it wasn’t for that position at Walmart, a lot of people with varying disabilities, including cerebral palsy and autism, would be unable to get a job and would be unable to provide for themselves. This role was originally made to reduce shoplifting, and over time, it became a job that often employed people with disabilities because it was something that we could physically do.

In February 2019, Walmart announced that they would be changing their greeter role to ‘customer host.’ The demands of the job will also change. Instead of sitting or standing in the front of the store and greeting customers, the customer host will be responsible for jobs such as assisting with returns, lifting up to 25 pounds and being able to clean up spills. These are all tasks that many people with disabilities can’t do. It has been reported that people with disabilities have been laid off and are more expected to lose their jobs.

As a disabled person who’s exploring the job world, this breaks my heart and enrages me. Besides writing for the Oracle, I’ve never had a job. But that will hopefully change this summer and this fall. I am currently looking for a job for this summer and a work study position for the fall. I have already applied for a number of jobs. I have had three interviews so far and two rejections. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get these jobs, but I’m more curious as to why I didn’t get the job. I have a couple of different theories. I can’t start working until after the semester ends and maybe they need someone to start now or they wanted someone with more experience.

But I have another idea. I hate to say it, but it may be because I am in a wheelchair and have cerebral palsy. It is illegal for a job application to ask the applicant if they have a disability. Despite this, I did have to disclose if I was disabled or not on my AMC application.

Knowing that my potential future employer did not know I was disabled only added to my anxiety going into the interview. I knew I would be judged immediately before I even opened my mouth. I knew that I would be judged before I even extended my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Emily.” I saw the looks and the double takes when the people in the front realized that I was there for a job interview.

When I came into the interview, I let the thought of discrimination bug me for half an instant. But then I had to let it go. I had to focus on nailing the interview. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and giving up on the interview before I was asked the first question, I used my disadvantage as motivation to go above and beyond in the interview to show I am a good candidate for the job despite my disability.

But no such luck. I feel defeated and exhausted. And the news of Walmart discontinuing the greeter position does nothing to give me hope about my job search. If Walmart still had the greeter position, I could apply and interview for a job where I knew I wouldn’t be judged for my cerebral palsy.

By changing the greeter position to ‘customer host,’ Walmart has told me and every person with a disability that we will be judged in our interviews and probably turned away.

People with disabilities want to support themselves just like abled people. If society doesn’t want to support us, let us support ourselves. Make it easier on us, not harder.