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Doing Well at Work When You Have a Disability

Doing well at your job depends on many things. Some are the same for everyone, like having the right skills for the work you do. But when you have a disability, you need to think about other factors as well.

If you’re starting a new job or returning to your old job with a new disability, these steps can help you adjust to this time of change:

  • Think about the impression you want to make when you start your job.
  • Plan how you will get to and from work, and make sure you have the supplies you need.
  • Make sure your job is a good fit for your abilities and your experience.
  • If your employer is going to make changes at work to help you, get these changes in writing, in a work contract or a letter from your employer.
  • If your employer is hesitant to make changes because of the cost, check with the Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) Funding may be available.
  • If you’re moving to your new job after college, university, or a training program, the disability services office or a career advisor can help you.

Your employer might have a “tryout” time when you first start, to see if the job works for both of you. If you worked with someone from your school or a service agency to find your job, they might be able to help you during this tryout period.

Focus on what you do well, and remember—you were hired because of what you can do.

Tips for doing well on the job

  • Find the right balance between your work and your home life. You want to do well on the job, which means you’ll work hard. But if you work too hard—for example, always coming to work early and leaving late—you probably won’t be as happy, and it could hurt your health. The right balance will help you be happy on the job and at home.
  • Get the help you need. Many employers have programs to help workers. There are also programs outside of work, through government, your union, your professional association, and community agencies. These supports can make a real difference in helping you succeed.
  • Help others learn about your disability. Some people might assume false things about you or other people with disabilities. Talk in an open way about what you can do and dispel myths that people may believe.
    • Your co-workers might not know what to do or say when it comes to your disability. Be open—talk about how you want them to treat you, what you might need, and what not to say or do.
    • You can also ask your supervisor or a person in human resources to talk to other workers about this. The Alberta Human Rights Commission and other service providers have programs to teach people about living with a disability.
  • Find a friend on the job. If someone at work—a buddy—will help you learn where things are and how things are done, it will be a big help. Your buddy can answer questions you have and introduce you to other people. This is an important part of your success and your happiness at work.
  • Network. You probably have a network—people you’ve met who can help you with work-related things such as finding work and doing well at your job. If you don’t, try some tips to build your network. Keep in touch with these people. They can help if you have questions about work or if you want a new job in the future.

When something concerns you

It’s not a perfect world. There may be times when someone tells a joke that hurts your feelings, puts down people with disabilities, or does something that makes it hard for you to do well. How will you deal with it? Ask yourself these questions to figure out what you want to say:

  • When is the best time to talk about this?
  • How often has this happened? Once? Or many times?
  • Is it better to talk to the person alone, or in front of other people at work? Should you talk to your supervisor? Would a training program for everyone at work help?
  • Will your co-workers say something about this?
  • Did the person know the comments were hurtful? Could you offer advice on how to say things differently?

There’s no right or wrong way to deal with things like this. If you do decide to say something, talk about what was said or done, not about the person who did it.

Some employers don’t know how to talk to people with a disability and don’t understand what it is like to live with a disability. You can take steps to break down these barriers and help the employer learn the facts. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Plan well and stay positive

Landing a new job is just the beginning. It takes effort to do well. If things get challenging, do your best to stay positive. Meet and talk with your co-workers and make sure you have the support you need. Take the right steps to help you be happy and do well at your job.

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