My multiple sclerosis (MS) was diagnosed 40 years ago in August. I never kept my MS a secret, but I didn’t go around advertising it, either. I’ll bet, for the first 20 years or so, very few people at work knew I lived with the disease.
When my MS stuck, I was working as the news director of a large radio station in a major U.S. city. I managed about 50 people and, because I didn’t know what turns the disease might take, I thought I should be upfront with everyone. I told them I didn’t expect MS to impact me right away, and that it shouldn’t affect the newsroom. I think I said something like, “It’s not a big thing.”
Four months later, I was fired. I’ll probably never know if it was because of the quality of my work or my MS.
Fortunately, a friend in the news business who was a manager at an international news organization (who knew I had MS) hired me to work in his newsroom. I’m lucky. That company saw me as an asset, not as a liability or a medical time bomb. I worked there full time for a little over 32 years until I retired.
National Disability Awareness Month
I’m sharing this information because October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). And many people with MS are not as lucky as I am. Despite 75 years of observing NDEAM this month, and despite 30 years of Americans living and working under the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act, many of us — far too many — still have problems being hired or staying employed.
Oh, the government is talkin’ the talk. The U.S. Labor Department has social media tools, a suggested news release, and several other public relations items available on its website. It has even created a slideshow with 31 ideas for celebrating NDEA Month. Day No. 1 is “put up an NDEAM poster.” Day No. 16 is “solicit an NDEAM proclamation.” (The White House has issued one). But is it walkin’ the walk?
I regularly see complaints and concerns on social media groups from people whose employers won’t give them simple accommodations (sometimes it’s as simple as a parking spot near the entrance) or who are fired shortly after they disclose their disability or who can’t find a job because of their disability. The government proclamations and public relations just aren’t doing enough.
A place to go for workplace disability help
An organization that seems to do a very good job of helping people in the workplace is the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) at West Virginia University. It’s one-stop shopping for a ton of useful information about workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. The JAN website has a large library of accommodation articles and publications plus a robust search engine. Best of all, JAN offers one-on-one guidance to both workers and employers via phone or internet. And all of this is free!
JAN is where I’d turn if I were to have a disability issue at work again. In fact, I wouldn’t wait until an issue arose. I’d check it out now, to be ready with facts in hand should you ever need them.
You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.
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