After the Honeymoon: Chronic Illness in the Workplace

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Therefore, it seemed like a good time to tell parts of my story relating to being “disabled” with chronic invisible illnesses as a young adult in the workforce. A lot of the patients I hear from faced the challenges of developing these illnesses in their 40’s (give or take) and having to leave the workforce; there is much for me to learn from their experiences, but I need to apply it in a different way as I entered and try to make my place in the workforce. At 45, it’s hard enough to give up your job – at 15 (age at diagnosis) it’s really not an option. Hopefully what these patients went through can help me in this challenge.

In my last post, “Once Upon a Time: A Tale of Disclosure”, I discussed my decision to disclose my illnesses to my firm before I was hired full-time. Now, I’d like to share how I approached my first few months (which included my first Busy Season) and when I realized I needed an accommodation. To be clear, I’m not suggesting all other chronic patients follow in my [...] continue the story

For Good

For Good was made some thirty years ago. It is a documentary without commentary and features Angie, Helen and Geoff, who were all born with cerebral palsy. We see their daily triumphs and frustrations and hear them describe, with some humour, living in “an able-bodied world”. When the film was televised in the UK, it was the first time that people with speech disabilities had been allowed to “speak for themselves on national television”. In the last 30 years, some things have changed for the better for disabled people but, still, in the words of Angie, “I’ve always said that it’s society that makes you handicapped, not your disability.” Since this film was made, Angie and her husband raised a son, now 26 years old and a 6-foot-tall rugby player. Tragically, her husband, Tony, died five years ago in an accident. She now runs her own consultancy company, advising disabled people on independent living. Geoff has been awarded an O.B.E. and Helen has gained a degree.

Border Land

How do persons with mild intellectual disability experience their world? There is a large group of people who live in a sort of vacuum, in a border land. They look like you and me, but are classified as intellectually handicapped. They want us to accept them, they want to belong but are constantly rejected. To be classed as intellectually handicapped often means to be classed as an outsider. The film’s focus is on the concept of normality. Who, after all, is normal? And what prospects do we offer those persons we call abnormal? “Border Land” is about two mildly handicapped young men, Sven-Anders and Peter. They have had special school education, they have no normal school leaving certificate, they are unable to get normal employment, they are categorised. Peter struggles to see his normally gifted son, who is only allowed to be with his father for two hours every other week, and not without supervision. Sven-Anders’ great interests are chasing celebrities for autographs and getting a relationship with a woman. The film “Border Land” offers no answers. Its aim is to invite reflection and – hopefully – debate. The ball is in the court of the viewer.

A Leap Ahead

Disability is only in the mind and anything can be achieved through determination, self-motivation and commitment. When a “Mongolian” baby was born in Chuttur’s family, the entire life of mother gets focused around this child. She nurtured and raised him to stand along with normal kids. Observing the efforts and patience of the wife, Subhash Chuttur started experimenting with mentally challenged, employing them for simple jobs. One by one, the number of these experiences increased and so also did the confidence of Subhash Chuttur. Today he does not stop at that, but takes every opportunity to convince others to employ such persons. This film sends a message, how such specially-able persons can be integrated within society. More importantly, it also conveys a need for change in attitudes toward the disabled people in society.

Gamnific

Fabian Castilla was a weelchair basket player in the Argentinian selection for the 1992 Olympics Games in Barcelona. After, he decided to move to Catalonia (Spain) with his wife. In 2001, he started to be the coach and a player from the team Joventut of Badalona. Since 2001, he has made it possible for a team with little budget to be now in the Spanish first division of weelchair basket. This film talks about Fabian’s life, and his dreams.