Adult female sitting on wheelchair. She is typing on a very tall desk in the sky. A check list of accommodations underneath her wheelchair is supporting her. BIPOC

Working with SMA 

I have mentioned in a previous article that I have worked full time. After graduating college, I had a hard time finding employment at first.

I was still walking at this time. My biggest issue was getting up out of a chair and climbing steps.

Apprehensive about disclosing my disability

This presented a lot of issues. Discrimination because of my SMA always made me nervous. I would never disclose my disability when I scheduled an in-person interview.

I showed up for an interview and the building was inaccessible. There were 20 steps to climb. There was no way I could manage that.

I had to call from the parking lot to let them know I was disabled and that their building was obviously inaccessible. This ended up being a waste of time for both me and the company I was interviewing at.

Starting to self-disclose my disability

After this experience, I started self-disclosing my disability.

That experience helped me get over the fear of being discriminated against. Unfortunately, we all will have to deal with some level of discrimination. I truly believe it’s not an eye-popping issue.

That has been my experience. Tell me about your experiences, good or bad.

Don't be discouraged

That experience taught me that my time and energy are important. If I told them when I scheduled my interview that I was disabled and I am unable to climb steps, they would have obviously said their building wasn’t accessible. This was before Google Maps.

I imagine back then I would have been discouraged. Don’t let those things discourage you. Learn from my mistakes.

My advice on communicating needs

If you are a younger person reading this article, here is some advice that I wish I had known 20+ years ago.

Be upfront about your needs within the workplace. Start a list of things or modifications you might need to successfully do your job.

Communicate this list with your HR Department. They should be able to assist you.

Being open with colleagues about my needs

When I was still working, I was very upfront about my needs with my boss. He and I had a really good relationship. This helps.

I also had a great relationship with my staff. They knew I needed assistance with physical things.

I worked in a mortgage call center. This was over 15 years ago so we were dealing with paper files. These files weighed a few pounds each.

I wasn’t able to carry a lot at once. So the company purchased a small cart that I could load them into when it was time to pass them on to the next department.

Flexibilty from my boss

I let my boss know that some days can be harder than others physically. He was flexible with my starting time.

Some mornings I was there super early. Then there were mornings where I couldn’t get in until 10 am.

Some people might view this as laziness. When you are dealing with SMA your body will only let you do so much.

My boss knew that my work always got done. Having that flexibility allowed me to work as long as I did.

What are your insights on working with SMA?

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