Managing Disability in the Workplace

Updated: Mar 18

An explanation of the challenges people within the disability community face in the workplace and how we overcome them!

Having a disability presents challenges in life that many will never face. Whether you have a physical, mental, or developmental disability, it is not easy to find and maintain employment. In this blog, we will speak to all three disability categories, because we have variations of each one. We believe credentials are important when giving resources, sharing personal experiences, and giving suggestions for self-advocacy. So let’s run down a few things you need to know about us.

The Never-Ending List of Disability

If you are reading this and have any type of disability, you can probably relate to that feeling of going to the doctor with a never-ending list to answer the dreaded question: "So tell me about your diagnosis." It is an open-ended question that literally has no end for us. Currently, we are harboring over 15 diagnoses and all are chronic or persistent issues.

The ones that are pertinent to this blog are Autism Spectrum Disorder, Fibromyalgia, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Arthritis, IBS, and Incontinence.

The reason we list these and not every single one is twofold. First, you will be bored out of your mind if we list them all. Secondly, these are the disabilities that impact our lives the most. These diagnoses present challenges with daily life, work, and school. It has caused us to quit jobs, struggle to go to the store, and do daily activities like brushing our teeth. Additionally, communication can be almost impossible in some circumstances since our disabilities are comorbid.

Today, we are going to examine the workplace. What challenges we have faced and are currently facing. At the end of the blog, we will share some tips and tricks that have helped us tremendously, so stay tuned for the entire blog!

Why can't you just do it!

If you have worked, are working, or plan to in the near future, you will face many people with the "Why can't you just do it?!" mentality. Whether this is with your direct supervisor or with a coworker, there is a lingering stigma over disability visibility.

Disability visibility is how people judge you based on "how disabled you look." There are some examples that you may think of that fall on any end of the spectrum. These can be physical disabilities like paralysis or visible developmental disabilities like Downs Syndrome. There are too many to list, but you get the idea.

The ability to adapt to change is an innate quality for humanity. However, when you have a disability this looks different. Often employers will request fast results and provide quick instructions that can be hard to manage. But be encouraged! As the late great physicist Stephen Hawking said "Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change." Having a disability means you interact with the world differently than neurotypical people. This in itself is a manifestation of your intelligence and value to an employer.

Check out some employment resources from Autism Speaks!