Framing Disability as an Asset

In talks I and others give we’re quick to tell the audience that we succeeded because of our illnesses not despite having them.

Framing disability as an asset is the difference. Showing how experiencing a hardship gives us the skills, abilities, and strengths we can use to innovate as creative problem-solvers on the job.

Yet listen: being honest about being depressed on a college application essay will backfire. The reviewer of what you wrote could think you’re too depressed to get out of bed on time to attend class.

How it goes is that talking up the positive effects and benefits of proactively managing our medical condition. That enable us to thrive better. Is the key to turning around an outsider’s view of us.

Like it or not a lot of people–and employers–still view having a disability as a liability. This is called “ableism.”

It comes down to researching companies that value hiring, retaining, motivating, and promoting–and having their leaders “sponsor” workers with diverse backgrounds whose life experience is an asset.

From my own experience I can tell you that having persistence, determination, and the ability to follow through on a goal until you reach it. That right there sets you apart from the average Joe or Josephine who goes through the motions in life, comes home, and turns on the TV for two or three hours.

That’s why a favorite interview question that hiring managers ask in an interview has become:

“What did you do while the pandemic forced everyone to stay at home?”

While New York City shut down I was writing and posting inspirational blog entries and exercising in my living room mostly 2x per week.

How has having a disability changed my life for the better?

I literally had to fight for the right to get a job and live in my own apartment–two things other people take for granted they can have.

In the 1980s it was thought no one could recover.

People like you and me who have had the guts to speak up for ourselves have this competitive advantage in the workplace.

We should be celebrated as employees who are not afraid to raise our voices in a staff meeting. To challenge or champion a policy or procedure being discussed.

“Rubber-stamping” a yes to everything brought up could backfire when your intuition tells you it’s the wrong move for the team to pursue.

In fact just showing up in the boardroom sitting at a table with coworkers is often a feat in itself for a person with a disability.

Having the courage to speak up in life as well as with our livelihood should not be frowned on.

Ordinary people might not like it when individuals with mental illnesses come crashing through the glass wall that separates us from what’s on the other side.

I turn 58 in the spring. The closer I get to 60 I’m reassessing everything in my life.

In the coming blog entries I’m going to talk about strategies that are in the vanguard for getting ahead.

The older I’ve gotten I’ve become crazed to make things happen.

Author: Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the new book Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health.

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