October is Disability Awareness Month. In a lot of workplaces these days, diversity and inclusion are being talked about more than ever. Disability is often left out of that conversation. So many people think that if your disability is not visible to the eye, that you are lying about your disability, which is not true. When most non-disabled people think of someone with disabilities, they think of someone using a wheelchair or a walker. Someone can have invisible disabilities like a learning disability, or a chronic illness.
Having Disability Awareness in the workplace is the first step to change. If you are seeking to make your workplace more inclusive for everyone, disability awareness has to be part of that conversation. What are you doing to ensure your workplace has disability awareness besides adhering to the ADA laws?
My Journey Working and Searching For Work As A Disabled Person
I identify as someone who is disabled, which makes my job search more narrow than most. My disabilities are that I have a weak upper body and very low fine motor skills. I also have scoliosis. When I’m in a dance class, I have to modify movement all the time. I have been working since I was fifteen. I’ve pretty much done every job you can imagine-babysitting, temping, event staffing, to name a few. I consider myself a diligent and hard-working team member. I’m always ready and willing to learn new skills.
When I’m not writing for New York Gal, I’m pursuing a performing arts career as an actress and singer. This makes my job search a little bit trickier than most, besides being disabled. When I could audition for theatre and television in person, I needed a flexible job. I needed a job that would let me leave for a couple of days if I booked a television show. My job search feels super narrow at times because of what I need out of a job and my limitations of disabilities. It makes me feel frustrated sometimes.
I got my first job when I was 15 working as a Bus Counselor at my performing arts summer camp. I took attendance on the bus and I made sure everyone was on the bus at the end of the day. Since then, I have worked as a Camp Counselor, Teaching Artist, and Babysitter. I really enjoy working with kids and it makes me feel useful. I certainly don’t have all the answers when it comes to jobs and it is something I’m still trying to figure out.
How Non-Disabled Is The Default and Why There Should Be More Disability Awareness In Hiring
Before and after auditions, I would hear my friends in holding rooms, talk about their catering gigs and waitressing jobs. I would sink into myself and feel bad that I physically could not do those jobs. I knew I could not also handle the physical labor of retail. Sometimes, I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked and other times, I feel like I’ve done nothing. I know I can only speak from my experience as a disabled person, but I’ve always just wanted to feel as “normal” and capable as possible.
But in our society, non-disabled is the default. Did you know according to the CDC, 1 in four people in the United States are disabled? I’ve always wanted to come off to be a capable and good worker. There are so many job postings that I see that it states in the job description that you have to be able to pick up to 20 pounds. Why do I have to be able to pick up 20 pounds for a desk job or a fitness job? Do I really have to lift up to 20 pounds? Are Employers aware of wanting to be more inclusive to people with disabilities?
Working With A Disability And How You Can Make The Workplace Have More Disability Awareness
As part of my work uniform at the job I had pre-COVID, I had to wear a red button-down shirt and black pants. I always had to come to work early because I knew it would take me a long time to button my shirt, due to my poor fine motor skills. It would take me three or four times to button my shirt.
Employers, I know you want a work professional outfit that men, non-binary people, and women can wear when they go to work. Why do professional outfits always have to have buttons on them? I want to encourage employers to make their uniforms more inclusive to those with disabilities.
Just because I cannot lift heavy things and that it might take me longer to do a task than most, it does not mean that I am incapable of working. I want to work and do the best job I can for you! I’m just asking for fairness and accessibility. Due to the COVID19 Pandemic, I feel grateful that most jobs have gone remote, which means even if asked, I don’t have to lift heavy things. I hope more employers, even after COVID19 are making their workplaces more accessible and continue to have more disability awareness than ever.