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Navigating Your Career

From a young age, I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare. Due to my condition – I have spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 1 – I soon realized that my physical limitations would make it challenging for me to work in this space. However, I utilized my education (I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Social Work) to work with vulnerable individuals in the community.

Applying for jobs can be stressful, let alone applying for jobs when you have accessibility needs! When navigating the interview process, it’s important to be your authentic self and to be confident about your strengths.

“You are not obligated to disclose your medical condition unless it impacts your ability to work, so what you share with your employer about your accessibility needs is your personal choice.”

When I first entered the workforce, I was worried how others would perceive my disability and whether employers would value my innate skill set. However, once I accepted who I was, I learned to highlight my unique strengths, which helped employers recognize how I could benefit their organization.

It can be helpful to take some time to brainstorm what workplace accommodations you need, and which will help you succeed. Some common accommodations could include: requesting assistive technology, a quiet workspace or flexible work schedules. For example, I require a wheelchair accessible workspace and need access to my personal care attendant. Although it may seem counterintuitive to ask for what you need, advocating for workplace accommodations is necessary and can provide you with the tools to be your best self and succeed at work.

Although individuals may be unaware about your disability-related challenges, most people will be an ally for you once you explain your needs and how they can help. However, if you do not feel comfortable discussing your concerns with your fellow colleagues, talk to a trusted friend or professional (i.e., doctor, therapist) and they may be able to offer guidance or support.

Here are 3 things to consider when entering the workforce:

  1. Understand your condition and what your needs are. It may be beneficial to share your needs with your employer to ensure your workplace is accessible. I suggest creating a list to help guide the discussion when meeting with your employer.
  2. Know what accessibility supports you need to succeed in your workplace. This will aid in conversations with your colleagues and help you be prepared to execute the duties of your work.
  3. Embrace setbacks. I wish someone would have told me that it’s okay to not have your life figured out or to not have the career you wanted or planned for. Although it may be disappointing to experience challenges, every opportunity will help spark personal growth and help you discover your passions!

“Don’t be afraid to have honest conversations with your colleagues about what is going well or what additional supports you need to help you do your job; You will always be the best advocate for yourself!”

For additional tips on workplace accessibility, check out the resource section on SMA My Way to learn more.