#NDEAM: Tips for Communicating With Your Employer
October is National Disability Awareness Month (NDEAM), which is recognized by the United States Department of Labor. As such, here on the forums we will be doing a series of posts about people with SMA in the workforce.
Today, I want to talk about establishing a line of communication with your employer so that they understand your specific needs and accommodations. Obviously, we want to show people that we are fully capable of working and contributing to various companies; but at the same time, we do have limitations and needs that our employers need to be aware of.
Myself and the other moderators here have the unique position of working for an SMA website, but we also come from different backgrounds. Prior to working for BioNews Services, I wrote for a few different entertainment websites and was a writer and editor for my alma mater’s student newspaper. Working for the school paper really prepared me for this job, as I juggled multiple responsibilities while also being a full-time student. I worked there throughout my college years, and I served as Associate Features Editor my Junior year. It was a fantastic experience which taught me a lot about working with a disability.
Based on my experiences, here are just a few tips for establishing a line of communication with your employer.
Articulate Your Needs and Accommodations Early On: Once you are hired for a position, think about what specific accommodations you will need to perform your job. Once you know those accommodations, present them to your employer as soon as possible. Employers should be willing to make those accommodations, but they can’t be expected to know everything about SMA. Whether it’s using specialized equipment in the office, having a personal care assistant with you or anything else, it helps to be clear with your employer about what accommodations you need.
Talk With Your Employer About Your Schedule: Most employers do not realize how much additional effort it takes for us to coordinate schedules with caregivers, get rides to work, etc. In the event that a caregiver cancels last minute and you are left stuck at home, it helps for employers to realize that this is a possibility. Or if you know that you have multiple medical appointments coming up, it helps to notify your employer well in advance. If you are a trustworthy employee, your boss will be more likely to make arrangements for you to work at home sometimes or do something else to accommodate you. If they don’t and ignore your accommodation requests, then the job isn’t worth it.
Notify Your Boss When There is a Problem: Let’s say that after you start the job, something comes up that you didn’t originally anticipate. For instance, I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew and take on too much responsibility. Doing this wears me out, and when it happens I have to let my boss know. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your employer if something like this occurs. If you’re constantly fatigued, you won’t be able to perform to the best of your abilities at your job. The best thing you can do when there’s a concern about your health and well-being is to let your boss know.
Communication is vital in any industry, and it’s especially important for those of us with SMA and other disabilities.
What are some of your tips for communicating with employers?