Revealing a Disability at Work When You WFH
By Amy Cozart-Lundin
January 6, 2023
I got my diagnosis just over 2 years ago. I was living with debilitating pain in both feet and was given an MRI, x-rays, and a visit to an orthopedic surgeon, who found I had Mueller-Weiss Disease. This is a rare, sudden-onset osteonecrosis of the joints and bones in my feet. I used to say “my feet are killing me”; now, they are literally killing themselves. I got depressed by the news. I had a small pity party for myself when I realized I’d couldn’t wear any of the cute shoes I loved with AFOs (ankle-foot orthoses). I grieved (and still do) the hindrance to my mobility – I don’t know what the future holds for my ability to walk in years to come, and I’m certainly never going to run that 5K I had dreamed about. But time has brought peace to my reality, and I make the best of the pain I’m in with steroid treatments. It’s just another part of my life now. But, revealing it at work is something I struggled to navigate.
As many other great designers do, I work from home. I’m in my tenth year as a remote instructional designer, and while I get up to refill my coffee about 4 times a day and take out my dogs, I’ve got what you might call a “cushy” office environment. I’m not trekking miles a day or lifting heavy luggage anymore like I did for an airline over a decade ago. It’s not like it was necessary to even tell anyone about my disability, as I am fully able to do my job without walking, standing, or heavy lifting. And no one ever sees my braced feet over Zoom – admit it, WFH-ers… we all know you’re wearing slippers during meetings too. I own that about my job! Business on the top, yoga-chic on the bottom.
So, why even bother revealing a disability when it’s not a part of your ability to do your job? For me, it was because:
1. Chronic pain sucks. It’s not always easy keeping up a smile with your teammates when you’re in agony.
2. I have more medical and therapy appointments these days.
3. Sometimes during the day, I need to put my feet up in my recliner and I need people to be ok with that.
4. In the interest of transparency, I thought it was nice to know that someone on my team understands what I’m going through.
If you have a disability and are considering revealing it to your employer or colleagues, it can be a difficult and intimidating decision. However, disclosing your disability can also be empowering and lead to a better work experience. Here are a few tips and strategies to consider when revealing a disability at your WFH job:
Know your rights: It is important to understand your rights as an employee with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the workplace and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations. Familiarize yourself with the ADA and any other relevant laws or policies that may apply to your situation.
Consider the timing: Timing is important when it comes to revealing a disability at work. You may want to wait until you have a job offer or have been working at the company for a while to see if the culture is supportive and inclusive. Mine, thankfully, has been. However, it is ultimately up to you to decide when the best time is to disclose your disability.
Choose the right method: There are various ways you can reveal your disability to your employer or colleagues. You may want to do it in person (if possible, depending on your WFH location), via email, or by writing a letter. Think about which method will be the most comfortable and effective for you.
Prepare for questions and concerns: It is normal for your employer or colleagues to have questions or concerns about your disability. Be prepared to address these and provide information about how your disability may impact your work. You can also offer suggestions for accommodations that may be helpful.
Seek support: Relying on the support of trusted friends, family members, or a professional counselor can be helpful when revealing a disability at work. These individuals can provide emotional support and help you feel more confident and prepared.
Revealing a disability at work can be a difficult decision, but it can also lead to a more positive and fulfilling work experience. I know my experience has been one of relief with gaining support from my colleagues. What I deal with in my day-to-day is a little less painful when I know there are understanding people on the other side of those Zoom calls. My final advice –
1. consider your team, company culture, timing, and impact on work dynamics when making this decision to reveal your disability
2. Understand that you are not alone in this; if you fear your team will make you feel that way after speaking up, remember that (for the most part) humanity is pretty decent out there, and I have yet to meet a colleague that hasn’t shown love, kindness, and support to me.
3. If you still feel alone in this despite my thoughts above – please message me. I never want any of my fellow humans to hurt or struggle on their own. I’m here to support you if you’d like it. Remember, you’ve got this.
Why You May Want to Work with An Educated Instructional Designer
By Amy Cozart-Lundin
January 1, 2023
Instructional designers play an important role in creating and developing online training programs for employees. They understand how to use instructional design to help learners understand key concepts and ideas. A professionally trained designer can make a big difference when it comes to creating effective, efficient, and engaging training programs. Here are some reasons why you may want to work with an educated instructional designer:
Instructional design is complex.
Instructional design is not a one-size-fits-all field. It’s a complex, ever-evolving process that requires a unique blend of skills, including:
- Researching and understanding learning theories, best practices, and trends in the industry
- Applying research-based strategies to create training programs
- Editing training materials for clarity and flow
- Working with a wide variety of stakeholders
Instructional designers apply research-based strategies to create training programs.
Instructional designers apply research-based strategies to create training programs. They work with a wide range of clients, including education institutions, corporations, and government agencies. Instructional designers use their educational knowledge in the process of developing training content that is tailored to their intended audience. They also use their research skills to gather information about the needs of learners and how they learn best.
This makes it possible for instructional designers to evaluate their own work objectively - taking a broader perspective on what works or doesn't work when it comes time for someone else's evaluation.
Your employees will appreciate a professionally designed learning program.
An instructional designer can help you develop a training program that will be more effective and efficient for your organization, as well as more enjoyable for your employees. Your employees will appreciate being guided through the learning process with a professionally designed series of lessons and assessments, rather than feeling like they're just being thrown in at the deep end without any guidance.
Employees who have confidence that their training will lead to positive results are more motivated to participate in it; knowing what's expected helps them feel prepared for the challenges ahead. And when employees have a positive experience with their learning program—whether that means it was fun, challenging, or helpful—they're more likely to remember what they learned!
An experienced instructional designer can help make sure your training meets these important criteria by creating engaging content that's suited specifically for each audience member's needs. This means employees don't waste time reviewing stuff they already know (or worse: stuff they've already mastered). And because there's no need to spend hours trying out different approaches until one sticks (and then repeating this process again next year), everyone wins!
Working with an educated instructional designer can be less stressful in the long run.
Even if you have the best intentions, there's a good chance that your training design will be flawed. After all, it's not easy to create an effective course from scratch—and even the most experienced designers can make mistakes or fall into bad habits that prevent them from creating an effective course.
A trained instructional designer is more likely than you are to avoid these pitfalls and create a course that meets your needs. They'll use best practices for designing e-learning materials, so their courses will be easier for learners to digest and retain information from. And since they know about how human beings learn best (and what techniques are most effective), they're more likely to make sure your learners retain what they learn from your training programs.
Instructional designers who have graduate degrees are more likely to produce higher-quality training, more efficiently, and cost-effectively than someone who lacks experience and education in the field.
There are many reasons why an instructional designer with a graduate degree may be a better fit for your organization’s needs than one without:
1. A higher level of expertise and knowledge in the field of instructional design.
2. The ability to learn new skills quickly and efficiently, including emerging technologies and tools.
3. An understanding of how adult learners learn best can help them create more effective training programs for your organization’s needs.
If you’re still unsure, consider this: a trained instructional designer is more likely to create a learning experience that meets the needs of your learners than someone without those credentials. In addition, they can do it more efficiently and cost-effectively. From a business perspective, that means your company will save money in the long run by hiring someone with this kind of experience rather than trying to wing it on your own.
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