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National AccessAbility Week – Small Changes for Big Impacts: Andrew’s Story

May 31, 2021

Articles

National AccessAbility Week provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities and to recognize the efforts of individuals who are actively working to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion. To help honour this week, we spoke with Andrew Stewart, IT Operations Desk Technician, who shared how simple accommodations help him be more included and provided insights on how accessibility benefits everyone.

Here is his story:

I have been a member of the Rogers team since 2018 and working here has truly been a dream come true!

Since entering the workforce, accessible accommodations have helped me succeed. I am autistic, with disabilities such as executive function differences, Attention Deficit Disorder and anxiety, all of which push me to take a different approach to planning, problem-solving, organization, and time management. With these differences, I do not require accessible tools, but rather accommodations, which is more of an individualised approach in response to my specific needs. When people think of accessibility, they often think of assistive technology like screen readers, closed captioning or text-to-speech programs, but it’s important to understand that accessibility extends to removing all barriers that exist in the workplace environment.

From the start, Rogers recognized I had a need for external professional support, so they contracted Ready, Willing and Able, a government funded Job Coaching program designed to increase the labour force participation of people with an intellectual disabilities or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As a person with autism, I often miss social cues, I can have trouble understanding or misinterpreting what someone says, and I don’t always understand boundaries. My team has learned to give me clear, concrete instructions in smaller portions and gives me regular feedback. My manager and I continue to meet regularly with my job coach and make adjustments on both sides, as needed. When starting at Rogers I was also given 2-on-1 training so that I could learn at my own pace and ask questions. I’ve also been able to adjust my work hours, moving away from shift work to a flexible Monday to Friday 8:30-4:30 schedule to support my medical needs.

Most importantly, my team has always worked in partnership not only with my job coach, but with my family, creating an open relationship with regular conversations between my mom and leader, so that everyone works together for my benefit. That way, if something causes me anxiety at home, my mother can let my team know, and vice versa, so that we can anticipate most issues and either stop them or solve them quickly.

People with invisible disabilities may have different comfort levels with what they’re willing to disclose, which usually stems from the idea that to ask for accommodations you must share your medical condition.  In reality, the focus for accommodations is discussing the capabilities or functional limitations to make accommodation arrangements. That’s why I think its important that we move towards a way of working that automatically includes more accessible practises into the day-to-day. We don’t always know what each other are dealing with on a daily basis, so keeping an open mind about individual needs and accommodation will create an environment that’s inclusive to all.

I am a proud Rogers employee who has benefited greatly from these accommodations. This is my Accessibility story!