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This is the first post in a series entitled “Issues I face as a working adult with a disability”
Do I tell others about my disability? If yes, when? And if no, why not? And how much information is the right amount to share?
I have chosen to disclose my disability but it wasn’t an easy choice. I want to be treated and respected the same as my peers and co-workers, but without sharing the understanding of my specific issues I face the real possibility that I could be fired for behaviors that I can’t control. In a previous job I was fired because the supervisor did not understand how I communicate and he expected me to understand his subtle facial expressions when he was displeased with my work. I had no idea that things were going badly until the day I was fired.
As an adult with a non-verbal learning disability, I am not always aware of social cues and often misread communication that others take for granted. This is especially true when faced with supervisors who don’t understand [or are not willing to accommodate] the type of direct and, often, repetitive instructions that help me be successful. I also need someone who is willing to re-focus my attention on the work that needs to be done as I am easily distracted and am not always aware of my wandering attention away from the tasks at hand.
I am grateful that I was able to participate in the Jewish Vocational Service Transitions Program at Newbridge on the Charles (NBOC). I am currently working [and getting paid] 3 days a week at NBOC for an organization which has made a commitment to hire adults with disabilities. Because of their commitment and the training I received from the Transitions Program, I have kept my job for over 2 years. We do have instances where my boss is not happy with something I have done [or not done] and I am not always aware that he is not happy with my work. I am lucky that there continues to be a JVS job coach working in the building who can step in to help my supervisor communicate his concerns about my work.
I didn’t start out wanting to tell everyone about my disability and I don’t want to be treated differently in my work environment. I am willing to work hard. All I want is to be the same as everyone else and treated with respect. But now that I have learned that disclosing my issues and having others at work understand my unique needs helps me to be successful, I know this is the right thing to do for me.