“Earlier in my career, I often took leave without pay or made other detrimental choices to avoid drawing attention to my own health issues. Now I’m motivated to safely bring conversations about diverse abilities out of the shadows for others.”
- Visit Job Accommodation Network where you can find an A-to-Z list of disabilities, accommodations, and related topics.
- Accommodation requests start with your doctor. You can also ask for recommendations and suggestions based on their experience.
- Find support and resource groups on social media and other forums where people have already come together to share information about their diverse abilities.
Q: What would you say to someone with diverse abilities who’s navigating the working world? How should they advocate for themselves? What resources should they seek?
Julia: If you’re new to ICF and bring diverse abilities to our team, let me first say, “Welcome!” Generally speaking, for anyone in the working world, it can be hard to come to the table with diverse abilities, which is why it’s so important to be proactive. Start advocating for your needs by doing some initial research to have background and supporting details to draw from. Then bring what you’ve gathered to the attention of your company advocates. At ICF, that means meeting with HR to discuss your needs and next steps. It’s up to you to decide if you want to disclose your diverse abilities with your supervisor, but either way, you can trust your HR partner to work towards a solution.
Q: How can people managers and colleagues become better informed about their roles in supporting employees with disabilities?
Julia: I often ask our people managers and fellow colleagues to explore the diversity, equity, and inclusion training available to ICF employees—and to continually check in with their employees to offer support. I also encourage participation in our affinity group events. Last year, we held a meeting about the accommodations process and what steps employees need to take to start advocating for themselves—but really, anyone can benefit from learning about this.
Q: What are your thoughts on using the phrase “diverse abilities” versus “disabilities”?
Julia: In expressing this community as being “diversely abled,” we do not hide ourselves. Instead, we claim our unique abilities for ourselves, recognize that our unique perspectives are an asset, and demonstrate that these diverse abilities may make our lives more challenging, but ultimately, they also make us stronger.
Jessica: Diverse abilities is a welcoming term for anyone who has a diagnosis they must navigate. While technically, these may be protected classes of medical disabilities, some people may identify as disabled; others do not. Some have diverse abilities they’ve had to overcome from birth; others may be facing something new. And anyone can have a connection as a family member, caregiver, co-worker, or friend…anyone who feels an affinity for this community is welcome.