International Day for Persons with Disabilities – A look into the day-to-day experiences of persons with disabilities and their loved ones
The pandemic has shone a light on the crucial need for change in equity-deserving communities, including removing barriers and opening doors for persons with disabilities and the individuals who support persons with disabilities.
Today is International Day for Persons with Disabilities, a day formally recognized by the United Nations since 1992 with the goal to increase awareness and promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
To highlight this day, we’re passing the pen to Ailen, Corinna and Sara – three Rogers team members identifying as or caring for a family member living with a disability.
Read more about their empowering stories of overcoming obstacles and how the pandemic has impacted their day to day lives.
Ailen Taitt Kinsey
I remember the moment so clearly. There were thousands of words in the neurologist’s report for my son Jack, but I was fixated on three – Autism Spectrum Disorder. I didn’t know what was in store for my son, or if I had the strength to be the mother he needed.
As a toddler, Jack was fascinated with light switches. He would flick them on and off dozens of times in quick succession, several times a day. Changes in routine were difficult for him and at school, he was often lost, academically and socially.
For years I’d often arrive at work emotionally and mentally drained. I’d feel guilty for being there rather than with Jack. In the summers, my husband and I would often have to leave work to pick him up from day camp, only to be told that it wasn’t working out and that he could no longer attend. There were times when we had no idea what we were going to do with Jack the next day.
While I would never have chosen COVID-19 for the world, the ability to work from home has been a godsend for my family. The online learning format has worked well for Jack so much so that his reading, writing and comprehension have improved tremendously over the last two years. When he starts to get frustrated, we’re right there to encourage him, kiss the tears away, and send him back to his computer to resume class.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to continue to work from home part of the time. It will be nice to reunite with those I haven’t seen in person for almost two years, and as a safety professional, I’m also looking forward to getting back out into the field and visiting different work environments.
This time has been transformative for many of us. I hope we all remember that and do our best to support each other in any way we can.
My name is Corinna Matteliano, and I have Multiple Sclerosis, which presents itself as both a visible and invisible disability. My sister, who is four years older than me, also has MS and although we have different versions of MS, her experience prepared me a little more for what I was in for after my diagnosis.
MS has forced me to become very aware of what my body is telling me. There are decisions I have to make that may seem trivial to some. I have had to admit that I can’t do everything, which is hard, and I have had to learn how to accept help from others.
I have also learned that although it’s easier to dwell on the things I’ve lost, the best rewards come from learning to appreciate the little things in life.
The pandemic has given me the ability to work from home, which gives me the luxury of time; time to take for myself if needed and time to work on other aspects of my life at Rogers beyond my usual workflow. It has also given me the opportunity to move into a house which is far more accommodating to my needs.
I’m looking forward to seeing people in 3D when we begin to return to the office, and I truly hope that my team members continue to appreciate what I have been able to accomplish throughout the last year.
My name is Sara and I’ve worked as Legal Counsel at Rogers for 11 years, and I’m also a mom to two daughters, ages eight and five.
My oldest daughter was diagnosed with autism in early 2019. Since then, I’ve learned a lot from the autism professionals we engage with, but the most valuable insights have come from my daughter and other voices in the autistic community.
My daughter’s traits show up in a way that are uniquely her and I adore her. She is bright, brave, passionate, always inclusive and she communicates well verbally. At the same time, she struggles with social communication, emotional regulation, executive function and sensory difficulties.
During the pandemic, our biggest challenge has been juggling work while school was shut down, and the uncertainty of how long that would last. But working from home has also come with opportunities: it has given us flexibility and proximity to our daughter, and we’ve been able to communicate with teachers more productively and adapt her schedule with specialized programming.
I’ve learned that the daily experiences of autism can vary greatly – some moments feel impossible while others are manageable and joyful. I’ve also seen the immense value when others provide support by being open-minded, non-judgmental, and compassionate.
I’m looking forward to going back to the office, but I’m glad that it’s going to look different. I see Rogers working hard to be an inclusive environment, and meanwhile, the pandemic is showing us how adaptable we can be. I’ve learned that I have colleagues in similar situations and have experienced how flexibility and accommodation can help me better support my daughter.
I hope that by sharing this, I can contribute to understanding, support and sense of community – especially for those with disabilities and other caregivers.