Sometimes a person in a professional disability situation needs certain measures to achieve their full potential at work. It may be their workstation setup, schedule, etc. Usually, these measures cost nothing or very little and are easy to implement.
Although measures are important, we ought to remember the role everyone plays in the employment success of a person in a professional disability situation. Each person, including the most autonomous benefits from family support and encouragement (under the guidance of a motivated employment counselor of course), as well as from an employer who is willing to do things a little differently from time to time and new coworkers who are open and curious, etc.
Everyone who participates in an individual’s employment project can really influence their success, because integrating into a new job involves more than just integration. Adapting to new tasks and working conditions is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes experienced by a new hire. Indeed, a person must simultaneously integrate a new transportation route, work team and corporate culture. Furthermore, they must get to know their new bosses and partners and sometimes customers. In short, they have to adjust to several new relationships. When the fit works, other people are included in the life of the new employee and vice versa, creating a reciprocal dynamic.
Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality, the theme of the International Day of Disabled Persons never happens without others. Even if a workstation is perfectly customized to a person’s specific needs, the risk of difficulties or even failure during integration remains if they face relational obstacles; from the moment they leave the house for work until they return home. Will new coworkers be welcoming and include them in conversations during breaks? Will someone take the time to teach them the tasks required? Will other transit users give up their seats on the bus without grumbling?
I am convinced that quality human relationships encourage, among other things, the employment integration of people with disabilities. However, the positive or negative impact of other humans in an employment integration process is qualitative, subjective and very difficult to determine through analysis and more a matter of a case by case basis. Therefore, it’s difficult to handle the factor directly and control its impact; however, the support of employability professionals helps create balanced relationships at work. I believe that every person, including professionals working for the employment integration of people with disabilities, regardless of their social status can contribute uniquely to the employment integration of people with disabilities.
Our words and actions influence the people around us just as much as our inaction and silence. I think everyone has the capacity for empathy and genuine caring; they are not reserved to people who are predisposed. They are learned in early childhood, and we must practice them throughout our lives to develop them. However, our level of openness and our environment can influence our ability to be open with others. For example, when we are with people who show kindness, we tend to do the same. Just think of how the sight of someone smiling gives us permission to smile. Thus, when we give to others, others give back to us in one form or another. However, it’s not always easy to have a positive attitude daily. Everywhere, we are expected to perform, both in the workplace and our personal lives. In the heat of the moment, due to these expectations, we place pressure on ourselves and cross out items on do lists that grow constantly. How do we stay in touch with what really matters? I must confess that I’m imperfect and that I don’t always do the things that cost so little, but could make a huge difference in someone else’s life. I know extremely well that when I do it, I feel good and reap a huge reward. Although we may feel guilty or defensive about not always being our best, it’s better to admit that sticking to our values requires a lot of effort. In the end, we are responsible for our attitudes and behaviors nonetheless. I think by accepting personal responsibility, we rediscover the power to be actors of change in our lives and that of others, living better together.
I want to live in an inclusive world where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential. You may share the dream, but you may not know how to attain it. I often feel confused about the subject. I think that the first step would be in Gandhi’s famous words: “Become the change we want to see in the world”.
The most beautiful measures in employment integration are also fragile, unstable and difficult to plan, but they are just as surprising, touching and incredibly helpful. They are a simple smile, a helping hand and an invaluable adaptation. We have the power to deploy them in our lives and the lives of others by improving our capacity for empathy and kindness.
A collaboration of Ève Dupuis, Project Officer, SPHERE
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