5 Crucial Steps to Dealing with Disability in your Career

5 Crucial Steps to Dealing with Disability in your Career

Persons with disabilities can still achieve their career goals and aspirations. The good news is, today’s work environment provides many workarounds that can help – beyond that, it comes down to having the right (positive) mindset. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Anticipate the queries

Your employer may ask about your accommodation needs, as well as how the demands of the job could impact you. For example,  you may wish to let your employer know if you have mobility needs, or require some flexibility in hours.

e2i career guidance

(Photo credit: Yomex Owo)

Some common requests for workplace accommodations include providing a phone with light indicators (so you won’t miss client calls if you’re hearing impaired), installing retina scanners at wheelchair height, or having access to important work facilities (e.g. having more ramps so you need not go the long way around to get to your destination).

The goal is to come up with a clear, confident answer each time.

Alternatively, you can apply for training and other forms of assistance from SG Enable, an organisation dedicated to enabling persons with disabilities. This includes administering grants and support to persons with disabilities, and enhancing their employability and employment options.

While e2i also provides resources to boost your career, SG Enable can provide help that is more specific to persons with disabilities.


2. Draw focus to your achievements and abilities, over qualities

Achievements and abilities are things you have done, or things you can do. Qualities are your character traits. Having led sales teams across Asia is an achievement or ability; being hardworking is a quality.

(Photo credit: Nik Macmillan)

While you should be proud of both, you often have a limited time when speaking to an employer or boss. As such, use more of the time to talk about abilities and achievements.

For example, don’t start the conversation by saying you have a passion for your job. Instead, open by saying which projects you’ve successfully completed, which key positions you’ve held, and so forth.

By starting this way, you get to set the direction of the conversation – it places the spotlight on what you can do for your employer. It also helps to differentiate you as an employee (lots of people are hard-working; but not everyone can lead a team of engineers, or develop a cross-border sales plan!)

3. Be confident

Having good self-esteem is important.

For example: Say you’re not fully confident that you can do your warehouse job, because of mobility issues. You could be performing well and excelling; but one day, you hear a supervisor comment that he wishes “the warehouse people would walk faster.”

The comment may not refer to you at all, but it could also be misunderstood as a jab at you*. That could impact your morale, unnerve you, and disrupt your performance.

When you have confidence – this is also a positive vibe that could be picked up and valued by your colleagues and bosses.

*At the same time, do know your rights. If such comments are unmistakably aimed at you, report it to TAFEP.

(Photo credit: jodyhongfilms)

The comment may not refer to you at all. But if you’re sensitive about your disability, you could misconstrue that as a directed insult*. That could impact your morale, unnerve you, and disrupt your performance.

The more you accept yourself as person, the less likely this is to happen. If you feel you’re not yet at this stage, do consider spending some time soul-searching; even if it means taking time off work.

*At the same time, do know your rights. If such comments are unmistakably aimed at you, report it to TAFEP.

4. Be open-minded and flexible

Mr. Raymond Kang, a career coach at e2i, explains that being open to different types of jobs can be vital to your overall career. As an example, he mentions a hearing-impaired client that he recently helped:

The client had approached e2i for career guidance in 2018. He had a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology, and had worked for his previous employer for nine years. Finding a similar job, with similar pay proved challenging.

(Photo credit: DomenicoLoia)

However, the client was both resilient and adaptable enough to consider a different line of work.

He is a real survivor,” Raymond says, “He was willing to take on a totally different job, and willing to learn.” Raymond also credits him for taking disability in stride, and coping well “He was an excellent lip-reader, when I spoke to him he answered perfectly, 100 per cent. Otherwise if he needed to, he would ask you to write things down for him.”

Thanks to his adaptability, e2i was able to place the client was able to place the client in a job as a media executive. While the change wasn’t easy, the client (who declined to be named) says that “the main challenge was finding the right boss, who is willing to give persons with disabilities an opportunity to display their knowledge.

On my part, it was definitely not easy to transition to a new career, coming from my IT background. But we must be willing to accept new career change”.

The client says it wasn’t easy to stomach the lower salary at first, but he knew it would open the door to different skillsets and opportunities later.

He is now gainfully employed, and even on track to being his own boss: “In the next 10 years I plan to be my own boss,” he says, “Once I gain enough experience along the way by learning new things.”

His advice is to “Find out which skills can be transferred to any job industries. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. In your free time, go to any library, and borrow a book to improve your knowledge and empower yourself for the future.”

Transferable skills are considered valuable to employers in almost any industry. Raymond says that such skills include: “Teamwork, time management, communication, decision making, problem solving, planning and organisation, and presentation.”

Sometimes, when it comes to getting a promotion, being just a bit better at time management or communication will clinch it.

5. Embrace technology

From voice recognition software to Dot (the world’s first Braille smartwatch), assistive technologies are on their way up. Keep open to such news, and try out such tech whenever you get the chance. Anything that improves your efficiency can get you ahead in your career. Sometimes, when it comes to getting a promotion, being better at time management or communication will clinch it.e2i career guidance

(Photo credit: Gilles Lambert)

Also, do experiment with tech like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and see if they can be of help to you. If you cannot type easily, for example, these can be a more efficient way to access the internet.

You can also bring up the issue to your superiors. There may be a budget to incorporate such tools, to help you as well as others with your disability.

For more tips and information on career development in Singapore,
visit e2i or like us on Facebook for more updates. For resources on working with disability, visit SG Enable’s Disability Employment site

To meet an e2i career coach, make an e-appointment here.
(e2i's career guidance services are complimentary for Singaporeans)


By: Ryan Ong
(This article was written in partnership with SG Enable)

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