Regina Job Search Strategies Forum Report
My Gift: The Challenges and Joys of a Mature Student and Social Worker with a Disability
Mona Hill, Program Facilitator/Teacher, Regina Work Preparation Centre
Mona Hill said people have had difficulty understanding her all her life. Her grade school report cards noted her love of conversation, her brother used to tell her she never stopped talking, and her husband pointed out that she often interrupted people in conversation.
‘“I never understood what they were talking about,” she said.
Shortly after two of her sons were diagnosed with a learning disability, Hill discovered that she had one too. She decided to go back to university and graduated successfully, “but with accommodations.” She wrote a letter to the university outlining the barriers that existed and recommending some positive changes, and they implemented many of the changes she had suggested. She had copies of the letter to share with anyone who was interested.
“I’m amazed to find not everyone tackles challenges the way I do,” said Hill.
Hill hates numbers, because she cannot see them in her head. She has trouble remembering things, but did well as a telemarketer because she could talk to people. She has won awards for her sales skills. “People with disabilities learn to compensate. We find ways to go over, under, around barriers,” she said.
Addressing the issue of disclosing, Hill said she cannot help but wonder if she was chosen for her abilities “or was I chosen to be the token person with a disability?”
For one interview, she asked in advance if she could bring some notes with her, and the interviewer agreed. During the interview, she was told she could not refer to her notes because it would give her an unfair advantage over the other candidates. She was told later that she did not get the job because she had used notes. Hill said had she self-disclosed before the interview, they might have understood why her notes were a necessity.
That interview experience set her back. As a consequence, she decided to be upfront and to self-disclose on all future applications.
She encouraged participants to research a company before applying there, and to find out their attitude toward people with disabilities. Some companies simply have not thought about it before.
“Build on your strengths and highlight your capabilities,” she said. “My gift is the ability to focus on more than one conversation or task.” Positive self-talk and daily affirmations are two techniques Hill suggests. She wakes up every morning and says, “I have a lot to offer this world.”
She encouraged those who are seeking work in the human services field to find opportunities to work with other people with disabilities. She suggested participants use the organizations and agencies that offer support to people with disabilities such as Saskatchewan Independent Living, Saskatchewan Abilities Council, and Neil Squire Society.
“I consider my challenges to be a gift. Be aware of yourself. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Hill.
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