By February 26, 2018 Read More →


My mentors are critical of the trajectory of my career.   Apparently, I change jobs too often, sadly many times because of my disability, I’m not a good fit or the employer isn’t a good fit for me, or just blatant discrimination.   My average in a position is less than sixteen months.     The cool side of that number is I’m very good at what I do, and I tend to be promoted quickly.   The dark side of that number is when I’m not accommodated at work.    Discrimination is brutal, I’ve never been sexually harassed but I can tell you that discrimination in the workplace is very painful personally.   I am of an age now where I’ve encountered other people with disabilities that leave the workforce early.   My disabled colleagues are simply tired of advocating.    I can attest that personally and my disabled colleagues get tired of being bullied or managed out because people can’t deal with their own prejudices. 

A person with a disability, or any person who is different will stay in a job if they are accommodated.    There is a direct 1:1 correlation between tenure and accommodation for persons with disability.    From personal experience each of us, if were different, disabled or not, has our limits for humiliation, discrimination and frustration.   I have a right to my personal dignity. 

I’m relieved when people are open about their distain for me and my disability.  I know that I will lose at least three job opportunities every time I’m conducting a job search, because of the disability.  I had an interview that I flew into Calgary for recently.   As soon as the recruiter seen the white cane I knew the interview was over and the opportunity was gone.   Recently I’ve also encountered people, for the first time ever, that feel personally entitled to tell me to my face that they will not help me, “We don’t have the time to accommodate you”, or “We won’t accommodate you”.  Its humorous to me that people will say, “I can’t believe in this day and age discrimination still happens!”.    In Tanzania people with my disability are regularly hacked or murdered as the locals believe its beneficial to eat people who share my disability.    Until 1977 in Alberta it was common practice to sterilize babies with disabilities.    It’s a brutal filter but if you can’t live with my disability it’s Okay if you’re not In my life.    

I’m very good at what I do, I’m a tremendous business transformation Information Technology architect.    I attribute my professional success to my ability to be a natural problem solver, brilliant special thinker, and a great communicator / facilitator.   All abilities that I’ve had to focus on to accommodate my disability which I also get paid for, it’s ironic.   Being a very high functioning blind person your generally considered to be inspiring.  I’m not comfortable with the inspiring bit but it helps.    As darkness follows light there are those that consider you and your disability to be an agitation, like you shouldn’t be out of the asylum.     Small minded people think because I’m blind I can’t do what I can do, and there are those that are constantly auditing you making sure you are disabled.  

From my experience to be successful as a disabled person you need.  A strong advocate who is your boss or your bosses boss.    When You have a strong advocate, the sky is the limit, amazing things will happen, and you get to do cool work.   It also helps to have people who accept you for who you are, disability and all.   These folks are amazing to work with.   As much as I’ve been critical of some aspects of my experience at Microsoft, in retrospect, Microsoft has been the best professional experience I’ve ever had.   NWR is a very close second, that team I worked with there was amazing.     At NWR the disability wasn’t ever a consideration, we just got the work done, together.   In hindsight, I still think my guide dog taking a dump outside my boss’s door was the end of my tenure at Microsoft.     

Technical accommodation to manage as much as possible your disability.   Technical accommodation will mean something different for each person.   For me I use a large screen TV, Kenisis Keyboard, Herman Miller Areon chair to accommodate my disability.   Others will have other needs.  Technical accommodations are not a cure, often companies will think you’ve got your damn TV now your sighted.   Accommodation doesn’t work that way.  I can’t be fixed and forgotten.    I’ll always be the purple peg no matter how hard you try and hammer me into your little green hole.   There is always downside to the big screen just like fast cars there is computer screen envy.   Until others realize they can read everything I’m typing from across the room.    Privacy is an issue always.  

Process accommodation to help with the things you can’t do.    If your reading this, you can see that I can write.   My editing skills on the other hand leave a lot to be desired, okay my writing could be better.   But I challenge you, how well you’d write if you were unable to see letters and punctuation?  When your company standard is a 9-point font I need a little help with the writing.  I just have to say with an aging population, is a 9-point font a good idea, just saying, I think it comes off as arrogant and insensitive.  I think my functional font size limit is 12.   I can’t do expenses either, I never have been able to never will be able to.    When you can’t see receipts try and perform a reconciliation, I’ve always needed help with expense processing.    

Other than that, I will hopefully surprise you, most of the time I deliver brilliantly.    

Recently I’ve been trying to actively advocate, its been an interesting exercise.   Trying to work with an organization though issues of bullying, discrimination and accommodation.     Historically at the time of the incident of discrimination I’d fire the employer.   My blind mentor asked me to try and actively advocate recently.    It didn’t work out, organizations will often say we’re able to accommodate you and over time you come to realize they can’t.      Its all about diversity until you don’t fit it.   Organizations like people can say all kinds of really cool things, Blah Blah Blah, the devil is in the details and actions.  

Historically when I’d encounter discrimination I would fire my employer.    Being highly functional and wearing a “disability” label people and organizations are always auditing always testing.    When My son was a toddler he actively testing the limits of my vision to see what he could get away with.    Its very hard for others to accept that professionally I can do what I do.  There is a measurement that I’m only able to do what I do because I have help, I’m somehow lesser or devalued.   I finally understand why my second marriage ended.   I married an accountant who was also an auditor.    Being high functioning and disabled people are always testing to see if your lying, people are continually testing your integrity.   These, “auditors” treat you like a criminal.  God forbid you accomplish something once, it will be expected every time.    When I’m measured on the how and not the what I will always fail.   I end up measured and found wanting.  I work my way because it works for me.   Its not because I don’t acknowledge or respect your way of working, its not my way or the high way.   Its this way works for me and I can’t do it your way.     

People who are different often think and perceive the world differently.  It’s one thing to have a diverse workforce.   It’s a very different thing to have a diverse workforce and allow for diversity of thought.    I’m most successful when my diversity of thought is appreciated at work.  The HOW work gets done is a major barrier for me.  The value I add because of my point of view is valuable, when it is appreciated.    I can guess at how to talk to sighted people but the for the life of me I don’t know how to work like a sighted person.    Simply I can’t, I’m not sighted.  I can tell you its hard being the messenger, I also find it ironic I get paid to talk about the elephant in the room when others won’t.   

I often end up feeling that I’m disappointing and embarrassing to an employer because of my disability.     I’ve had a CEO of a small consulting firm tell me just that I was embarrassing.    Many companies will try and sweep the disability issue under the rug.  When I need process accommodation companies have insisted that my partner do the work of accommodating.   Allowing my partner, someone outside the company to use company systems to do my expenses.   Violating any number of corporate and IT acceptable usage and access policies.    Its either my responsibility to accommodate myself or my responsibility to find someone to accommodate me.   Your really not serious about diversity if you can’t accommodate me. 

I often end up feeling disappointed and embarrassed for employers that Talk the Talk but can’t Walk the Walk.   An employer may be able to say the right things, but their organizational structure and business process can’t instantiate accommodation for diversity of any kind.    If you can fit in the mold your good or if you can fake it and live with it your good.   You can’t say to your diverse employees that bullying, discrimination or harassment is a fire able offence and when bullying, discrimination and harassment are reported, not fire anyone.    You can’t say we won’t do business with customers that bullies harasses or discriminate against our people and when a customer bullies harasses or discriminates against your people, keep doing business with them.    You can’t say we will accommodate you when your business operations teams won’t make the adjustments to business process.   It’s worse than not walking the talk it makes you a perpetrator and perpetuator of bullying, discrimination and harassment.      I was at Microsoft in the Steve Balmer era and I respect his vernacular of “Blah Blah Blah” and “Execute Execute Execute”; you must mean what you say and say what you mean.   If you can’t you just look stupid or worse, you’re now the one condoning the bullying, discrimination and harassment.  Advocacy for the sake of winning business or to look good at the tradeshow when, you can’t Walk the Walk, is beyond embarrassing its immoral. 

Being high functioning, you are constantly riding the razor blade.   My high functioning exists only on the head of a pin enabled by working a certain way and having my support system in place.   That is sadly perceived as my way or the highway.   It’s the way I must work to work.   Building the interface to the world of how others work is hard, I’m more than willing to work to meet half way, to build the API that works.   I can’t conform it just doesn’t work.   I can’t meet you all the way. 

That’s the point we must meet each other half way.   We must work collectively collaboratively to support each other.  That is where I function best.  I’m not asking for you help, unless I ask for help.   I’m asking you to meet me half way.    As I’ve gotten older my I hear from everyone, “we have to take care of each other”.    At work I’m not competing with you, you can have the promotion and performance bonus.   I will find a new job if I want a promotion and a raise, I’ll take that pressure off you, I just want to work.   I want to work and be able to hold my head high for the work and the company I’m working for.    I also want my personal dignity.   

There are very few remedies for bullying, discrimination or harassment.   Recently I tried to actively advocate and after I disclosed my incidents I was taken off projects and managed out, I was summarily fired and my accommodations taken away.    I don’t believe in advocacy from within, HR has turned into Corporate Risk Management, organizationally its cheaper to manage someone of diversity out the door then it is to accommodate them or take their complaint seriously and demonstrate supposed corporate values.     

I don’t mind the innocent jokes of ignorance or the questions.  I will answer almost any question you have about my disability.   But I’m left with recording incidents of harassment and discrimination, its up to me to be able to prove it in a court of law.    I don’t care about the one of mistake or if I tell you that’s not cool and you stop.   We all are human and must find our way with each other.    I’m ironically brilliant at being able to find the taboo topic and saying something about it, I too make mistakes.    I will apologize and adjust my perspective and language, I will accommodate others.   I just want to work, and I want to help others in their pursuit of working and as people as well.   I love people, as a blind person they are magic for me.  Everyone has a story to tell and something to teach, I find profound joy in finding it in others. 

Evidence of bullying, harassment and discrimination is the problem and I don’t want employers to be afraid of me or others who are different.  I promise I will not bring something to your attention unless I’ve tried to manage the situation and failed.  Or if the situation is so blatant I’m not able to personally advocate.    Sadly, unless the situation is almost life threatening its impractical to bring in a lawyer.   A legal process would be expensive and likely career ending.  If the situation is publicized at all your career will forever be impacted.   Who would take the risk of hiring me and potentially having me sue them for discrimination? 

The #MeToo movement is interesting and compelling.   My concern is the lack of process when people’s lives and professions are being destroyed.     I’d like to start the movement #MeAsWell I’m not sure it will propagate.  90% of blind people are unemployed or under employed.    Those of us that are employed do everything we can do to stay employed and progress a career.   Its very hard with a disability to get out of the survival, victim thinking mode.   Get a job keep a job is the mantra most of the time.   Not progress the career move to the next level, I’m working on getting back to the managing my career.    The point is there is less than 2% of the population in the work force with an openly disclosed disability.   There might not be enough of us to create a critical mass in social media.    

Human rights complaints are problematic.   Its up to the person who is being harassed or discriminated against to prove to the provincial agency that they have been bullied, discriminated against or harassed.    I didn’t appreciate how pathetic this avenue was until I called the Human Rights Commission.    Evidence is the main issue.   If your being discriminated against record everything, copy emails, video or record incidents.   As the one who is being discriminated against its is up to you to gather the evidence and prove your being injured.    After I discussed the issue the Human Rights investigator, the Human Rights Investigator couldn’t get their head wrapped around what I do professionally with a disability.    The system is flawed.    

To my mentors.    Because I have a disability and I want to work and work with dignity I change jobs because I am being bullied, harassed or discriminated against.    I can tell you I’ve left many positions because of this.    Chronologically to my HR and recruiter friends it doesn’t look great.    However, that notion is perpetuating the problem.    I know its hard to accept and no one wants to talk about it but that’s just the way it is.    I also leave jobs because I’m bored and want something else to do.   Like I said I’m very good at what I do, and I love doing what I do, I want to exercise my profession.  

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

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