Thursday, 12 July 2012

Employers: it's not a fair tick-the-box question!

When you apply for a job, standard forms ask a range of personal history question including 'Do you have epilepsy?'
Someone like me would be lying if I didn't tick the box, indicating I had epilepsy but that, frankly, would tell the potential employer very little. Because:
  • Yes. Neurologists would diagnose my condition as epilepsy.
  • I don't and have never convulsed (in other words, fit the stereotype.)
  • I never need an ambulance or medical attention after a seizure.
  • I'll be 'back in the room', as it were, within a few minutes.
  • My epilepsy doesn't affect my productivity.
  • 500,000 people turn up for work every day with a hangover.
  • Their hangovers significantly reduce their productivity.
  • 600,000 people have a form of epilepsy.
  • People with epilepsy know their limitations & will explain if you them a chance.
  • People who arrive at the workplace with hangovers are less likely to.
  • There are about 50 different types of seizures ranging from blinking to blacking out. Isn't the type of seizure more important information than the umbrella name for the medical condition?
I was talking about this with a friend of mine yesterday who's highly frustrated by forms that he wants to accurately complete. But they don't give him a chance to to give detail about his epilepsy which he knows is a much misunderstood medical condition. The friend in question doesn't convulse - and that goes for nearly half of all people with epilepsy.
However most people think convulsions are what epilepsy is all about. 
When my friend ticks the epilepsy box he's pretty sure that the potential employers examining his application will look at that piece of 'information' and move it (at best) to the bottom of the pile or (at worst) discard it completely. It just doesn't seem fair. He's intelligent, hardworking and a man with great integrity.
What about the Disability Discrimination Act, you might be thinking? Yes. What about it! No potential employer is stupid enough to ignore it and actually admit that epilepsy is why they don't want you on their staff. They'll find a reason that will be totally unconnected.
As said friend was almost makes you want to skip that box and just pretend or lie. Reality is, it's better to sit in front of someone and explain what happens to you specifically rather than tick a box which perpetrates an age-old myth.
I've no idea how employers imagine they could use the data they gather from the epilepsy box. 'Do you have epilepsy?' is the beginning of a conversation and in no way is a tick-the-box question.
Let's replace it with 'If you have a form of epilepsy, what form do your seizures take and how are you affected by them?'

Monday, 9 July 2012

There's something you should know...I don't drive

We live in a completely car-centric society and I don't know what's more difficult: telling people I have a form of epilepsy - or instead, breaking the alien, freakish, horribly unusual news to them that I don't drive...
Met a couple of women at the weekend and arranged to see them this week - and then the horrible happened. (Bear in mind that ep is a hidden condition and they have absolutely no idea that I have it.)
Woman Number 1 gives me driving instructions to her house.
Me: "I don't drive. Are you near a train station or on a bus route?"
WN1: "You don't drive?"
Me: "No, but I'll get to you by public transport."
WN1: "How?"
Me:" I don't exactly know yet but if you're not near a train station I can look up bus routes."
Woman Number 1 looked at Woman Number 2 with a 'that's odd, what-have-we-got-here expression'.
WN2 said: "How did you get here?"
Me: "Walked."
WNs1&2: "Walked!"
I was beginning to find this amusing but also a bit awkward.
Me: "Yes, walked."
They thought about that for a minute...legs as a form of transport. Then -
WN2: "If you don't drive, how do you do your food shopping. I couldn't carry mine."
Me: "Online. It gets delivered."
WN2: "I prefer to do it myself - you can never be sure what you get."
Me: "Yes, I'd prefer to do it myself too but I don't drive so I have to work around it."
Now they have me cornered. Either I let them believe that I choose not to drive because I'm lazy and haven't bothered to learn or I'm banned because of an offence. I could make up a story about being kind to the environment but I'm not going to lie to help them out with their prejudice. So I tell them that the DVLA wouldn't give me a licence because I have a condition where I have a type of seizure - sometimes.
This somehow satisfies the two women. WN1 tells me the numbers of buses that go near her home and WN2 offers, not only a lift home, but also invites me to join her on a her next weekly shop!
I think the car thing is quite funny. People will spend hours bemoaning their weight (too much); diet (when they're going to start one); the gym (when they're going to go now they've bought membership). Then they jump in their car to drive a few yards down the road to buy a bunch of something they shouldn't be eating.
People ask me if my medication helps keep my weight off. Now I think about it, I don't know any fat people with epilepsy. That maybe a gross (pun intended) generalisation. It's not because we pop pills though. It's because, to us, walking isn't a huge exercise programme: it's a way of life! And I don't think we deserve medals for it. We were already born with our reward - feet - it's just that car-drivers rarely use theirs.

Are we going to your place? No, it wasn't a proposition!

It sounded like a proposition, I grant you, although it definitely wasn't and the man who thought he was being propositioned react...