Find a Workplace that Treats Your Disabilities with Dignity

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by Christina Cordaro |

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Photo by Shutterstock A good support system can come in handy to enhance inclusion for a Friedreich's ataxia patient.

In my hotel hospitality job, I can count on working long hours, multiple days in a row, and on holidays and weekends. I knew what I signed up for when I graduated with a hospitality degree and accepted that first job offer. The thing I didn’t realize was that I was being adopted into a “work family.”
I have been working full-time at Hyatt’s The Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia for two years and four months. I switched from a smaller hotel company to Hyatt because of the many career advancement opportunities and the corporate employee benefits. Additionally, several people from my university who have been employed by Hyatt said that it is a wonderful company to work for because they truly care about their employees. I wanted to find a company that cared about my disability and how I can achieve a job despite my obstacles. So, Hyatt seemed ideal for me.
The career move was worth it. I truly believe my coworkers are my family and friends. I have a strong sense of community, guidance, and support from my coworkers. That can be hard to find in a job, so when you do find it, stay in that environment! Every day, my coworkers do small acts of kindness that go a long way. For example, they lend me a friendly arm when walking down the hallway, ensure I have a place to sit at meetings, get me coffee when I am fatigued, and most importantly, keep a smile on my face when I am having a tough day due to Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) challenges.

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My co-workers have gone above and beyond to exemplify the ideals people with disabilities should seek in their workplace.

They’ve supported FA research

In my first year of working with Hyatt, the hotel hosted a “Jeans for Charity” day to raise awareness and funds for the biking event rideATAXIA Philly, which helps fund FA research. That occurred within three months of working there, so I already felt that I belonged in the Bellevue family. I was nervous at first bringing up FA, but I told my boss at the beginning, and she took action with the human resources department to make the event possible.

At the TAK-831 investigator meeting. (Courtesy of Christina Logan)

Last year, a company called Takeda Pharmaceuticals hosted an investigator meeting to get approval for the TAK-831 clinical trial. Another FA patient and I got to share details about our FA and how the medication could benefit our lives. My employers gave me time off to allow me to be a part of this groundbreaking discussion and meeting. They later did the same to allow me to participate in the trial itself.

They take accommodations seriously, without complaint

A few months ago, I came to the understanding that my progression is slowly making a turn for the worse and it’s time to start using my rollator to and from work each day. That requires the use of a separate Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant entrance. My boss and co-workers were supportive of creating an accessible route because they knew I would be safer. They made sure the entrance was accommodating by walking the route with me.

(Courtesy of Christina Logan)

They make me feel comfortable

I recently fell in the employee cafeteria while trying to refill my water bottle. I did not slip on anything, but I lost feeling in my legs and fell straight onto the hard ground. Thank goodness another colleague of mine who works in the cafeteria was there to help me up. I used to be embarrassed by my falls and would burst into tears. This time, though, my eyes were dry because I felt comforted and supported by my work family.
Later, my boss and the colleague who had helped me assisted in writing an accident report. This was my first official accident report due to FA, but I knew not to let it get me down because I am always in good hands at work. Another layer of comfort is that when I use my rollator at work, I feel like it’s not really there because my coworkers look directly at me rather than at my assistance device like many other people do.
It’s important to find a workplace that has solid values concerning disabilities and chronic illness. If you spend a third of your day at work, then it’s your second home. So, find an employer that makes you feel equal. In all of my hospitality career (eight years), Hyatt has been the most understanding and accommodating company to work for when living with my disability. Each day that I come into work, I feel very grateful that I can be my best self there!
Don’t give up your search for a workplace that treats you with dignity — such an environment is priceless.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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