You are here:

Blind Woman Graduates Top of Her Class, Can't Get Job

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from the Kamloops Daily News, August 1, 2003.

The obstacles just keep on coming for Kamloops resident Kristi Ardell. Getting ahead has always been difficult for the young woman who was born blind. This spring, however, the future looked optimistic.

She graduated at the top of her class in the public safety and communications certificate program at the University College of the Caribou. Her overall average was 94 percent.

It appeared this time her disability would not prevent her from achieving her career goal. She took her skills and applied for a job with the RCMP as a dispatcher.

Then the uphill struggle she has faced throughout her life suddenly got much steeper.

"The police sent my application to headquarters by saying no way I would be hired because I was blind,said Ardell.

"I didn't expect the door to be slammed and locked so quickly."

Ardell is fully trained to use computer software programs that make it possible for her to work even though she can't see. She notes that good eyesight isn't the most important part of the job. It's being a good listener.

"When I was considering applying for school, I talked to a lot of people who are in the profession and they even said it shouldn't be an issue," she explained.

"One woman said that when she is working, she closes her eyes so she can picture the situation the person on the other end is in.

"I've always wanted to do this job for as long as I can remember."

UCC instructor Ron Salem called Ardell "brilliant" and said he wouldn't hesitate to having her part of a dispatch team.

"She was an excellent student, she was in tune," he said. She makes up for her blindness in her enthusiasm and a desire to do her best."

Working as a debt, peer and employment counsellor before getting an public safety education, Ardell decided she wanted to help people in a situation when things were more immediate. It is important for her to have a high stress job because "she works well under pressure."

Being blind has made everything she's wanted to do in life more difficult.

"I was so burnt out after graduating. I was putting in 14-hour days." She said. "It's twice as much work for a disabled student to go to school. When I was young, I fought tooth and nail to attend the public school system. It was really hard."

Ardell is curious why the one-day practicum she did at the RCMP last summer and the two days at the fire dispatch centre didn't change anyone's mind.

She would also like to know why the professors at UCC didn't give her any idea that getting a job after graduating would be slim.

"My frustration lies equally with the college because I feel completely abandoned," she said.

"No one has called or spoken to me since grad and even checked how the student is doing."

"It's discouraging because this program is supposed to weed people out who can't do the job. I can and I'm being told I can't."

"I'm getting tired of fighting and I don't have the energy. I've had to fight to go into restaurants with my guide dog, now it's preventing me from doing the job I want to do."

RCMP officials were not available for comment.

Comments

I do not feel sorry for this applicant, rather I understand and share compassion. The student followed the rules, gained the education set forth in accordance with global trends and employer request and still shunned by the igonrance of employers who refuse to identify ability rather than disability. I personally attribute this to the actions of SHRM a onesided lazy committee who refuses to accept responsibility for its actions in claiming computer selection finds the right employees rather than human interface.

Ban SHRM and employment markets will improve, Employers will begin to make decisions on their own and not based on some computer generated outcome.

I know I graudated with a 4.0 GPA earning an MBA and treated the sameway.

I feel sorry for Kristi & other grads when they learn the truth that post-secondary education are make-work factories for the institutions providing the degrees. Sadly in 2012 in Canada, too many grads are being churned out.