Not all disabilities are visible - by Corrina Phillips

22 March 2021

Not all disabilities are visible.

Sometimes I wish I had a sign on me that told people I had a disability so they could be a bit more forgiving. While I may not look different, I am soooo different!

I have been working at Life Without Barriers for almost 10 years in a variety of roles including as a front-line worker, a disability house manager and my current position as an NDIS client engagement and planning officer. It is through the support of the teams around me and the recognition that while I act a little differently, I have the skills to do my job, that has enabled me to thrive in my work environment.

This has not always been the case in my working life.

Image: Corrina Phillips is standing in a drive way. There is a blue garage and a tree behind her. She is wearing a multicoloured tie-dye top and has purple glasses, and blue and purple short hair. She has nose and lip piercings.

As a child I was diagnosed as being painfully withdrawn. In my youth I was properly diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome and more than 30 years later, as autistic and requiring significate support. This diagnosis meant that I was finally able to receive the support I need through the NDIS.

While I am detail focused – which is a plus in the work environment – I can come across as rude or disorganised. I can be very direct and literal in my responses and don’t connect with people the way I am expected to, such as not making eye contact or not smiling or talking in a monotone voice.

Before joining Life Without Barriers, I was pathologically bullied in many workplaces. You lose confidence in yourself and become anxious all the time. I know I have the skills, knowledge and ability to learn, but you have to fit in. And I don’t. I am an acquired taste!

Life Without Barriers has been wonderful in recognising my abilities and providing me with the support I need to do my job.

It was only while working at Life Without Barriers that I felt comfortable to share my disability. They have been incredibly accepting of my diversity and validated my experiences.

What has also been very important for me over my working life, was my fellow workers believing my disability and accepting who I am. All too often people diagnose others in their environment and inflict their ‘ableism’ on me. Advice to other organisations, is educating employees about the range of diversity in the workplace and accepting marginalised people as co-workers and not just clients. A real game changer for me, is being part of the DAWN (Disability, Ability, Wellness Network) committee at Life Without Barriers where I am able to network with colleagues, raise accessibility issues and champion change.

Having a place to call our own is very powerful.

I truly believe our company values seep through our organisation. Life Without Barriers understands social justice and embraces the wonderful differences each person brings to this organisation. It is this inclusion that has made me feel safe and accepted.

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