First day at work without any handicap

Starting the first day at work is always a big event for everybody. As a disabled person you may be wondering how your new colleagues are going to react to this situation. MyHandicap gives you some useful tips as to how you can easily integrate at the new workplace.

Your first day in a new firm draws closer and you might get a little nervous. Two important facts should help you to relax. Firstly, your boss hired you because he/she was convinced of your qualifications. He will support you! Nobody expects you to be a super-hero right from the start. You are entitled to make mistakes like any other person. In time you will get acquainted with your new job due to your former knowledge and through continuous training. Don’t worry about things that are yet to come. It is best to let take things their natural flow.

Be prepared

The second tip is a bit hard to swallow. Your new colleagues might never have had any contact with a disabled person. This is perfectly all right then you are going to change that! If your colleagues feel a bit insecure as to how to go about this new situation then you are the right person to help them deal with it in an easy and relaxed manner. Make the first step and reach out to your new colleagues. Nobody forces you to do it, but in approaching you colleagues in an easy-going manner you can be a role model and bring additional quality to your work.

Four play figures hold shields with the letters T, E, A, M. (picture: Stephanie Hofschlaeger/pixelio.de)
You are part of a team. (picture: Stephanie Hofschlaeger/pixelio.de)

Natural respect

Bear in mind that your colleagues will not disrespect you because of your handicap. The opposite is true. Your colleagues will treat you with natural respect and might even respect you more when you go about your disability with honesty and frankness.

Introduce yourself

Whether you meet your colleagues individually or in groups, you can apply the same rule. First you will introduce your person and then the disability. Be open and frank about it and don’t get lost in details. Tell people about your professional career. A little glimpse in your private live will help to melt the ice. For instance, you can talk about your hobbies, your favourite music or your family. 

Your colleagues are interested to know what kind of disability you have, but they might not be familiar with the exact clinical definition. Use simple terms which even a 12-year-old would understand. For instance use “paralysed” instead of “paraplegic” and “muscular weakness” instead of “spinal muscle atrophy”.

Tim Glogner. (picture: MyH)
The psychologist Tim Glogner gives useful tips how you can easily introduce yourself to your new colleagues. (picture: MyH)

Working tools

What your colleagues definitely should know is whether or not your workplace presents any impairment to you. You can tell them for instance that your desk is perfectly ergonomic even though your sit in a wheelchair. In case of impairment you can present your colleagues with a ready solution. This might be a special working aid or appliance, an external service (e.g. an interpreter for people with hearing impairment) or just an occasional helping hand from your colleagues.

Open and frank

Some disabilities are quite visible, but others like psychological impairment are hard to detect and sometimes even totally invisible. In the latter case you should be frank about it. This will help to avoid any misunderstandings or rumours, if, for instance, you need to go to the gents several times a day to do your insulin shot. And here is my last tip: tell your colleagues that you will gladly answer any questions during coffee breaks. All right, you are now ready to start at your new workplace. Good luck!

Text: Justin Black, TGL - 11/2010

Translation: BMI

picture: picture.de, MyH