It is easy to describe someone by their disability, especially if the disability is visible. For example, I’ve been described as “the wheelchair guy.” There was even one instance where I was only referred to by the chair as in “let the chair through.” I don’t get mad often, but that was one time that was upsetting and surprising. I informed that person there was more than a chair coming through!
After that interaction, I wondered how often people characterize others simply by their disability. While it is obvious that I use a wheelchair, it doesn’t define who I am. I’m able to accomplish many goals. If anyone doubts their ability to succeed, focus on the skills that you have and not what others think of you.
Even if the person has the necessary skills, the working environment can be a daunting places for those with disabilities. Clear and constant communication with your supervisor is key to making sure that you can complete the job properly. Your employer can provide reasonable accommodations, such as ergonomic chairs and desks, assistive technology and other resources.
A greater focus toward disability employment is increasing job opportunities. The Federal government has a goal that 2 percent of its workforce will be people with disabilities. The Department of Labor recently announced the theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month: “My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am.”
The observance is held every October. “This year’s theme encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that — people,” said Jennifer Sheehy, acting assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “And like all people, we are the sum of many parts, including our work experiences. Disability is an important perspective we bring to the table, but, of course, it’s not the only one.”
Each person is a valuable member of the team, regardless of ability. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself; that’s the best way to live an empowering and successful life!
Disability Employment Survey
A Colorado State University graduate student is surveying how people with disabilities perceive themselves in the workforce. If you’re interested in completing the survey, go to http://colostatepsych.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7Un8V3R0Na5KLE9.