Updated: Nov 3, 2022
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It is a time to recognize the contributions, innovations, and the vital roles people with disabilities bring to the workforce. According to the U.S. Department of State, employing people with disabilities is a crucial component of the ongoing work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) within the workforce, and as a part of foreign policy. It states that, “an accessible workplace with strong disability policies enables persons with disabilities to fully contribute to an organization’s mission.” It goes on to talk about the progress made, but there is still a long way to go. There are still several barriers to inclusion, and I find many of those barriers to be the mindset around one’s way of thinking or their view of people with disabilities. Would you agree or disagree? Have you experienced challenges, or have you witnessed the challenges that people with disabilities face or have faced in the workplace?
This hits home for me because I have worked for the same employer for 30 years. As my condition has progressed, I have required more accommodations than I did early on. My employer continues to work to improve the levels of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility that are currently in place. There have been many changes over these past 30 years, but there is and always will be work that needs to be done. I say this because with any large company, sour apples can fly under the radar for years. I know this because I have personally encountered a few, people that have made my need for an accommodation extremely challenging, and others have attempted to publicly humiliate me. I have had co-workers, which I have to assume is due to their envy of my accommodations, put in extra work at ‘advocating’ for me to sit at home and being unable to work at all. I have had a note placed on my car from someone who mistakenly thought I was not in need that said, “thank you for not being disabled and parking in the reserved spot.” I have even been asked, in a joking manner, if I have an extra disabled parking placard to be borrowed. Honestly, I would trade any accommodation and a closer parking space, to not have the need at all. These accommodations have come with comments, thoughtless behavior, ungratefulness, and attacks on me as though I am not human nor have feelings. This may be hard to believe, and if it had not happened to me, I would not believe it myself. As we all know, there are people in the world that do not think before they speak and are oblivious to their ignorance. It could also be that they feel like they will never have to walk a day in the shoes of a disabled person. I say, just keep living! If I had the strength to fight, I think I would be fighting all the time, but God! I believe that although some of the things that I have experienced have been less than great, I had to experience them. I needed to know firsthand what it looked like, what it felt like, and through these experiences my faith strengthened.
I want to work as long as my body will allow me to work, and after that, I still want to have something to do. I am unable to dress myself, go anywhere alone anymore, or comb my hair. It is not in my nature to do nothing. Walking into work and moving around the office is a little exercise for me. When I move, it affects those that care for me a great deal and the sacrifices made does not go unnoticed. The support I have in my life and knowing that my purpose is greater than what has and is to come against me has helped me through rough times of discrimination, hate, envy, and disrespect in the workplace. Therefore, this movement forward to have workplaces that are more accessible is everything. I do not think that it should stop at the workplace. It should be everywhere, especially when navigating the healthcare system, because it is not setup well for people with disabilities, which is extremely odd. I believe that these challenges are why many times preventive care or care in general does not happen for many with disabilities. This is a change that I would love to see happen. What about you? Do you currently work? When you did work, did you experience any challenges?
Remember that no one is exempt from having a disability. Life changing moments happen every day. It may not be you today, but there is always tomorrow. Be thankful and grateful for your abilities and be patient and kind to those that manage their abilities differently.
Please share your thoughts and comments. If you or someone you know would like to share a story, please email me at email@example.com