Dec 07, 2012 0 Share

Multiple Disability Workplace


Black and white disability access icons.
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During my first semester at Seton Hall University, one of my professors told us we couldn’t use laptops in classes in order to avoid “distractions.” For some this was easy enough to do (for those who aren’t addicted to Facebook at least) but for me it was a completely different story. When I first arrived at Seton Hall I had the opportunity to sit down with the Director of our Disability Support Services to work into my courses “reasonable accommodations.” Many of these accommodations were due to my diagnosis of autism. I was granted accommodations such as extra time on tests, a private room to take tests, and a recorder to have all my classes taped. 

One thing many don’t know about me though is that along with autism I have dysgraphia, a handwriting disorder. When I was young it would physically hurt to try to keep my hand still enough to write. So, when this issue came up I needed to address the fact that in addition to everything else I needed the computer as an accommodation in order to take notes. 

I was thinking about this subject the other day while I was writing my signature on a form and it made me think about how a disability, such as autism, can be linked to so many other disabilities. Growing up I had issues with fine and gross motor skills, which could very well have been factors leading to my diagnosis of dysgraphia. This could also be linked today with how some of my emotional issues and sensory integration difficulties have led to anxiety when it comes to living everyday situations. 

These challenges have made me question my future in the workplace. I feel as though as time has gone on, in every stage of my life, accommodations have been becoming a lot less detailed. Could this also be the case wherever I land a job next? It then made me wonder if a workplace would even be able to handle someone with multiple disabilities. More and more I’ve seen through internships that there has been training on acceptance and accommodation for individuals with disabilities but these discussions have always seemed very specific on each disability by itself … not multiple disabilities combined. 

I must admit I do look forward though to tackling these challenges head-on if/when they happen. Tackling topics such as these has been something I’ve been doing my entire life. School systems barely knew what autism was in the 1990s when I was growing up, but I was able to make it through. High schools didn’t see individuals with autism as individuals who could make it to college, but I got to prove them wrong as well. 

In the end, I don’t have a clear answer as to how to make these situations better. I think the greatest challenge will be the awareness of these cases where this happens. More and more we are harping on “acceptance” for those with singular disabilities but more time should be studied on how to help individuals with multiple disabilities progress, because there is a large community of us out there. In the workplace it will become a situation that should be constantly monitored. Public schools provide individualized support based in specific disability or combination of disabilities and we should encourage our workplaces to do the same.