Office plants can be deathtraps.

Photo by Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash

Disability in the workplace can be a tough topic, but it’s one that’s important to revisit on a continual basis. There are millions of people around the world who face challenges every day that go unnoticed or under-acknowledged.

For a lot of people, working is hard enough under normal circumstances. When a disability is introduced into the equation, whether temporary or long-term, it can feel insurmountable to the person going through it. I know, I’ve lived in that space for nearly a decade. My visual impairment fluctuates from frustrating to impossible to overcome, depending on the day.

My coworkers have been game-changers for me. Yes, there have been many who didn’t understand. Some flipped on lights with abandon day after day while knowing about my light sensitivity. Some questioned whether or not my eyes were as bad as I said they were (seriously, this has happened). Some coworkers just didn’t care either way.

However, it is the people that take the time to listen and adapt that have helped me not just to keep going, but to keep growing in my career as well (as cheesy as that might sound). The admin that rearranged the office to make sure I didn’t get tangled up in potted plants. The designer who took the time to copy/paste text into a document for my screen reader. The media manager who always warned me about hazards while walking in new cities on business trips. Those are the people that made sure I could cut through my impairment and focus on my work.

Right now, I work on several outstanding teams. The members have not just been open to hearing what I need, but have proactively come to me when they find a solution that could help. For me, that is ideal. However, every person with a disability won’t want to talk it about it 24/7 the way I do. Some may not want to talk about it at all. But I’d like to issue a challenge to anyone reading this: stay alert and be open to help.

In my early days of disability, I’d only give small clues that something was wrong. Even today, I am sometimes shy about asking for accommodations. It’s the coworkers who I can rely on to “get it” that really help me push through the hard days. Thanks to those incredibly perceptive people, my career has been made easier, happier, and more productive. I hope others will follow in their footsteps.

Note: I do realize that due to HR and privacy concerns, this advice can be difficult to follow. Of course, act within reason and your workplace’s guidelines. I’m just asking you to care.

Visually impaired author and adventurer

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