A job applicant who stammers was provided with facilities at an interview where he could type answers into a laptop and these would be projected onto the wall or a large screen.
An applicant mentioned his stammering on the job application form. There was a question in the form about whether he would need any reasonable adjustments, but he left that blank.
At an initial interview no particular adjustments were made. His stammer was severe at the time. The applicant was invited back for a second interview. The employer suggested they supply facilities where the applicant could type answers into a laptop and these would be projected onto the wall or a large screen. The applicant agreed and these facilities were provided at the second interview.
At the second interview his fluency was somewhat improved – which may have been for various reasons other than having the typing option. He says: “I didn’t use [the laptop] during the main part of the interview but thought I better use it as they had laid it on for me so I asked a question with it at the end. An interesting experience.”
Was it just because of the greater fluency that he didn’t use the typing option?
The applicant comments: “Although my fluency was greater, it was not a huge amount ‘better’ – I’ve got quite used to struggling through blocks and this was normal for me (that’s how I spoke) so maybe I didn’t use the gadget much was because I was ‘comfortable’ just stammering my normal way.”
It could take some time to answer questions through typing. Would he feel under time pressure and write less because the interviewers were waiting?
“There didn’t seem to be time pressure when I was using it even though I only type with 2 fingers – they suggested it/laid it on so I was using it the best I could… It seemed a quite natural/reasonably way of going about things. If I was blocking I would probably say less so how I considered it was that they wanted to get my full answers so they could assess me as a candidate properly. It was an interview panel of 4… I think they were genuinely wanting to get my full answers (they did after all give me a second interview)”.
Another person who was offered this facility found the natural tendency was to speak (and block) rather than type.
This is an example of a reasonable adjustment which could be required by the Disability Discrimination Act. It is good that it was done in such a way that he felt he was not under time pressure and had permission to take his time to give answers.
Possible advantages of this route, as opposed to simply writing answers to pre-set written questions as in the Bradford case, include:
- there is interaction with the interview panel,
- follow-up questions can be asked, and
- importantly, the candidate can speak so far as he feels able and write so far as he cannot.
Possible disadvantages, or issues to be addressed, include:
- ensuring that the applicant feels he has permission to take the time he needs to write what he wants;
- a break may be required;
- comments of both job applicants above (in main case study and also in side box) suggest the interviewee may in practice try to speak – and stammer – rather than using the typing option. This is a point to be borne in mind, though there may be other cases where the facility is found to work well. The views above are from only two people, one of which did not seem to feel he needed the typing option;
- length of time taken, including of interview panel, if nearly everthing is written.
Subject to the points above, using this type of facility may be useful particularly where the candidate is able to speak to a significant extent; and where a candidate has given written answers to pre-set written questions, this type of facility could be considered for follow-up questions.
Where a person really has a severe stammer though, and would need to write most of what he wants to say, one wonders whether this way of doing things would take too long, bearing in mind that to put him on a level playing field the applicant may need to give answers of equivalent length to candidates who just use speech.
Incidentally the employer should probably really have followed up before the first interview the issue of whether any adjustments should be made for the stammer.