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Disability at work

Rami Community member Posts: 7 Connected
Hi there! This question is directed to people who have ever worked in - preferably- an office environment.

I'm a 27 y/o woman with spastic cerebral palsy. I do not use any walking aids, however, I do have a limp on my left side (which is more affected) and a "typical" gait. This doesn't really cause me any major physical problems apart from not being able to ride a bike, run for longer periods of time or do any demanding sports (I go to gym though).

However, as many of us know, the challenges we face often go way beyond physical ones. I'm about to start a new job in HR (I have a Master's in O/I psychology). Although everyone is anxious before the 1st day at a new job, I feel like us, folks with disabilities, are twice as anxious (this, of course, also depends on the individual). My question is: do you let your coworkers know about your disability (when it's a visible one, they will notice iinstantly anyway) and, if so, how do you go about it? Do you have any "strategy"? I know people who are able to joke around, but I feel like in my case it's still a sensible topic and, as I don't need any workplace adjustments as such, there's no practical need for this discusion. However, I still would not like people feel like "there's an elephant in the room", or them to be overly conscious when I'm around, etc. I know these biases would not exist in an ideal world, but we should be realistic and understand that people tend to feel unconfortable around something they're unfamiliar with. They might also think that, let's say, it's difficult for me to move (which is not the case at all, as I walk at almost the same pace as abled-bodied people). The worst is that my situation could be perceived as worse than it actually is, which could potentially impact my career progression (I know this would be considered discrimination, but let's admit that there are so many ways to make it in a way that you can't prove anything, etc).

I've worked in 2 jobs so far, and have never told anything to anyone. No one asked, either. I just don't want people to be very "politically correct" around me, and am not sure how to deliver this message.

So, would you talk to your manager? Would you tell your "best buddies" at work only? Would you not discuss this at all unless someone asks? Or am I being too dramatic and the truth is that the coworkers don't rally care that much about anyone's dissability?

Thanks for any insights!


  • Jean Eveleigh
    Jean Eveleigh Scope Member Posts: 186 Pioneering
    I tell and ask people to come forward at any time if they have any questions around it, I do this to break the ice but also for practical reasons such as when the fire alarm goes off - what they can do to help me
  • Geoark
    Geoark Community member Posts: 1,471 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @Rami and congratulations with the new job.

    From experience HR are usually the people who 'get it'. After all a large part of their responsibility is to ensure that the company they represent don't fall foul of various employment and other laws.

    I wished I could tell you that co-workers do not care about anyone's disability but that is simply not true. I am very fortunate that I work in a team that very much care about each others disabilities or challenges. There is a genuine concern for each other, and if someone needs time off we pull together to make it work. This goes beyond disability, one of the young men I work with sometimes has to take time off for his young son, or work from home.  But just spending time listening to people in other companies where I work it is the opposite. 

    What ever you choose to do you need to be comfortable with it. You should be able to disclose it to your manager without it going any further, once disclosed beyond that the genie is out of the bottle and will be difficult to put back. By not saying anything at this point does not mean that you cannot say something later. If it makes you feel more comfortable then stay silent for the moment so that people get to know you as a person and you can decide later on whether to say something once  you have gotten to know your team.

    Either way I am sure  you will be a positive member of the team.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • pollyanna1052
    pollyanna1052 Community member Posts: 2,032 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi, yeh...congrats on getting the new job. Hope it is a good transition.

    let`s pretend we aren't disabled for a mo.........if someone new came to work with me and  could see a it with their vision, hearing, mobility etc.....I would quietly introduce myself and welcome them. I wouldn't directly say `I see you have a disability`...but I would ask if there is anything I could help them with.

    That`s exactly the same as I would behave as a disabled co-worker.

    But that isn`t what you`re asking is it? So I think I would behave normally as you do every day. If something practical occurs, that you have a problem with, then ask for help. Play it by ear. Oh and have fun!
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Posts: 10,581 Disability Gamechanger
  • Rami
    Rami Community member Posts: 7 Connected
    Hi All,

    thanks to everyone who's taken the time to answer and share their experiences. Your replies helped me see the situation from another perspective, and I guess I'm definitely prepared for the fresh start. :) Have a great week ahead!
  • Chloe_Scope
    Chloe_Scope Posts: 10,581 Disability Gamechanger
    This is great news @Rami! Please do keep in touch and let us know how you get on. :)

  • deb74
    deb74 Community member Posts: 814 Pioneering
    Hi @Rami. Among other things I have hydrocephalus which often makes it difficult for to understand things. I used to get shown how to do things wrong or forget how to do things. I never told my employers about this which probably made me look stupid but they probably wouldn't have heard of it anyway and certainly wouldn't have known what it was! I have walked away from loads of jobs and also been sacked. I work for myself now because it is easier for me. If I make mistakes now I don't have anyone else judging me!
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