RE: Medical Disabilty/Contracting/Jobs

Subject: RE: Medical Disabilty/Contracting/Jobs
From: "Dori Green" <dgreen -at- associatedbrands -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 10:13:39 -0400

VESID -- Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities . They provide support and training and advocacy and sometimes even money. They might be specific to New York State, but it would certainly be worth checking to see if your state has a similar program.

When macular degeneration started affecting my eyesight, plantar fasciitis went undiagnosed (no medical insurance) until my foot muscles actually herniated out from under the plantar tendon rendering me permanently lame, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and asthma and an irregular heartbeat stole most of my energy, and depression pushed my weight toward 400 lbs....

It took me five years to find a tech writing job again. Weight is steadily dropping, almost 50 off since April. When I have to stop to let my lungs catch up on the hike in from the parking lot, people still ask why I don't just get an inhaler. Permanent lung damage from chemical exposure on a job 20 years ago doesn't respond to an inhaler, it's just diminished function and it ain't gonna get better with a spritz. I get where I'm going, I'm just built for comfort more than for speed. I need to lose more weight and will feel better when I do, but exercise is especially hard when every step activates the Little Mermaid syndrome. My doctor says I need to walk more despite this, so she won't sign the papers for me to get a "handicap" hanger for my mirror. I have a whole bunch of opinions about fat-bigoted doctors who think those few steps of agony are going to make a big difference in the weight loss, but other than this we get along pretty well so I'm keeping her at least for now. Once she gets over that conviction that I can't be as healthy as I am, she'll be a great doctor.

I literally cannot stay on my feet for more than ten minutes at a time, so I have to carry a folding chair with me out to the plant floor. I get funny looks sometimes but so far nobody has challenged this "accommodation".

I have a big bamboo hiking staff, beautifully painted with tribal symbols. Cane says "invalid, potential victim". Staff says "adventurer, maybe dangerous". I don't take it out to the floor with me (which is why I need the chair). I want my SMEs to consider me approachable and a big stick doesn't foster that image, so I leave it in my cubicle.

For the eyesight, I have two sets of eyeglasses. Trifocals are for reading and driving and general use, special single-lens glasses are for the computer screen. Badly-designed websites with tiny print make me crazy but otherwise I don't need accommodations. I keep magnifying glasses handy near phone books and the STC Journal (unreadable rag). I'm taking eye vitamins and have heard of some exercises that might help. If it doesn't hurt, I'll try it.

Bless their hearts, I have not had to explain things in detail to this employer, just sometimes ask for what I need. I just started riding the elevator when they moved my office to the third floor, and nobody has challenged me.

Continuing to work through disabilities is a day-to-day superhero act. And not everybody is a superhero. Being expected to be one is one of my biggest irritants, echoed by friends who also live with disabilities. Some mornings are harder than others, but most employers are still stuck in measuring employee effectiveness by "in at 8:00, stays until 4:30". I'm on salary and I'm usually here until 5:15 or so because I'm enjoying my work. Everybody notices if I arrive at 8:05, nobody sees that I'm here late. Go figure. We are all only temporarily able-bodied; they'll get it some day.

People dealing with disabilities of all sorts -- visible and invisible -- are all around us. My own have humbled me and taught me to never assume what somebody else is dealing with. This has been a good and valuable lesson, and I probably would not have learned it otherwise so I thank the gods and goddesses for the lesson and move on.

Dori Green

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