Life @ U of T

Introduction

Accessibility in the Workplace: The Importance of Communication

Accessibility in the Workplace: The Importance of Communication

One of the things I’m looking forward to is graduating and finally starting to work! In May, I’ll be starting my Professional Experience Year (PEY) and working for 12-16 months. One of my main concerns with employment is navigating my chronic illness and mental health. Luckily, I’ve had my fair share of work experience, so this week I’m sharing my tips with accessibility in the workplace!

Finding the job

Finding a workplace that accommodates your needs or sets you up for success, may be difficult. Read job descriptions carefully! Some places may not seem perfect for you but interest you – so don’t hesitate to contact the workplace or bring it up during an interview. Doing research about the experiences of other students or employees can be helpful to hear concerns and learn how companies support their employees.

Laptop screen with resume on the left of it and a notification on the right about resumes
Every job application has a slightly different resume – it takes time but it’s worth it!

Applications + interviews

Not all companies are looking for the same skills and experiences – meaning applications should be catered to positions you are looking to get! If you need any assistance with this, Accessibility Services & CxEd are hosting 3 events to get you started:

Interviews are a great way to learn how you fit into the company. I’ve had workplaces suggest candidates send them accommodation needs before an interview, which is a good sign! At the end of the interview, I ask questions to understand the workplace culture, including asking about my position, and the hiring manager’s role in supporting accommodations.

notebook open with black cursive writing and a light grey background
I make notes before an interview and jot down some questions I have beforehand

The workplace

Starting out in the workplace is hard – it’s a new situation with new expectations. I’ve been able to find full-time positions that considered my chronic illness and mental health a priority, but know this isn’t always the case.

Before being comfortable disclosing to my supervisor, even when my flare-ups & migraines made it difficult to work, I’d avoid missing days. My productivity lowered and I felt disconnected. In hindsight, not having the conversation with my supervisor negatively affected me and further hindered my mental health.

After that, I learned to talk to my supervisors early on to discuss my accommodation needs. It’s not an easy conversation, and I still worry about the response I will get, but it helps to explain how I’ll stay on top of tasks and what I may need to do so. For example, with migraines I let my supervisor know that I may have to call in sick but may be able to work from home later in the day. In terms of anxiety and depression, with support and motivation from supervisors, tasks become less daunting.

person wearing personal protection equipment standing in front of train
Despite my health, I have been able to have a great TIme at my jobs and learn so many new things

In the event that it’s too difficult to approach a supervisor, or you don’t get a positive response, companies often have Human Resources where you can discuss issues confidentially. You have a right to a workplace that is fair, accepting, and safe.

For my PEY, I’ll be following these steps closely and hope to create a positive relationship with my supervisor. What’s your experience been with disclosing in the workplace?

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