Disability Employment Awareness Month: What’s Your Story?
In 1988, October was declared National Disability Employment Awareness Month by the United States Congress to raise awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Many people with CF are employed, while others face health challenges that prevent them from actively working.
I got my first job at the age of 15. I worked at a fast food drive-in, followed by several other jobs in the food service industry. At the age of 20, I began working at a local credit union and truly enjoyed both the job itself and the people with whom I worked. In the nearly 7 years I was employed there, my health drastically declined. I began needing more and more time off (which was unpaid beyond my few days “sick” leave). The last year I was working, I spent a total of 12 weeks in the hospital. My small office had a difficult time covering for me during these unexpected and prolonged absences. Tensions began to rise, and near the end of my time working there, I was under the impression that I was about to be fired. Ultimately, I quit and was immediately approved for disability.
This was my first and only experience with workplace tension related to my health (I don’t even like to say it was discrimination, because for many years, my employer was very accommodating and nothing was ever blatantly discriminatory). There was definitely some resentment and hurt feelings, but I am fortunate that things worked out in the end. Being on disability ultimately made it possible for me to get far better health insurance than I ever had through my place of employment. It also allowed me to be home with my daughter, dedicating much more time to my health.
I know others who’ve faced blatant discrimination at work. Disability in the workplace is still stigmatized. Protections and accommodations aren’t always granted. On the flip side, some employers are incredibly inclusive, supportive and accommodating to those with disabilities.
What has your employment experience been? Have you ever faced workplace discrimination based on your health? What are the best and/or worst employment experiences you’ve had?
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