The ambitious lawyer and the boss with Down’s syndrome

by Mattia Rosini - 2014.12.16
The ambitious lawyer and the boss with Down’s syndrome
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Job interviews make anyone nervous. But what if that law firm you dreamed of working for has a boss with Down's syndrome? That's the start of the short film The Interviewer by Australian director Genevieve Clay-Smith, which is being distributed in Germany by the Franco-German channel Arte.

There are two protagonists: Mr. Howell, an ambitious and charismatic lawyer, and James Dexter, a partner's son, who has Down's syndrome. The latter tells Howell that he's the partner who will be conducting the interview. The unusual employer has an unsettling effect on the man, as often happens when people come into contact with those with disabilities. Howell is about to leave, having repeatedly asked if there will be a real interview. But then he realises that the questions asked by James are not only totally relevant, but that the meeting is conducted with unexpected logic and precision.

When James's father, Paul Dexter, finally arrives to interview the candidate, he's forced to take note. And the son, who has for years been relegated to serve tea and coffee to customers, manages to impress and surprise his brusque father. He is eventually allowed to finish the interview. But others soon follow...

The film was an instant success. If it's anything to go by, most posts on Art's profile receive about 80 'likes' and a dozen 'shares'. Howell and Dexter's webpage has already been visited 140,000 times, has been 'liked' and shared thousands of times on Facebook, as well as attracting hundreds of comments. It shows that inclusion and the rights of people with disabilities are topics that can be addressed by challenging, rather than affirming, stereotypes.

While the short film shows a successful example of integration at work, the reality is very different - at least in Germany. Of course, there are companies who lead the way in good practice, such as Forever Clean. Thirty-nine per cent of the company's employees have disabilities and it has won one of five Inklusionpreis awards. However, the most recent data from the Federal Work Agency, shows there are about 180,000 unemployed people with disabilities (October 2014), with an unemployment rate of around 8%, which is growing slowly but surely. This increase is driven mainly by the over-55s, who account for 37% of all disabled unemployment (a rise of 4%).

Published in Down's syndrome.
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