Tell us a bit about your background & who you are?
Hello! My name is Ashleigh, but I prefer Ash. In (what feels like) another lifetime, I was a competitive swimmer, and even represented Australia on the Australian Dolphins Swim Team and travelled overseas frequently for various competitions. These days I like to indulge in a few sleep-ins a week and avoid getting my hair wet as frequently. Prior to COVID I loved travelling and took every opportunity I could to jump overseas including moving to New Zealand on somewhat of a whim for three years and taking on a month-long internship in Tokyo with five days’ notice. These days I am a very committed dog Mum (& stylist) to my pup, Dougal & love taking him on adventures to Melbourne, Sydney, the coast or just as my plus one to brunch.
What is your disability and how does it impact you?
I have a hereditary condition known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (or CMT for short). It affects my peripheral nervous system and mostly manifests in weakness throughout my legs and hands.
I am unable to type or write quickly for a sustained period as my hands fatigue quite quickly. Sitting down or standing in one spot for prolonged amounts of time can cause my lower legs to cramp and seize up.
What is your Job all about?
I am a Policy and Programs Officer for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education within the ACT Education Directorate. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Section is responsible for the implementation of Cultural Integrity in ACT Public Schools. My work within this space largely revolves around the Student Aspirations Program, which includes the facilitation and management of several scholarships and awards available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in an ACT Public School or University. I am also involved with the Whole of Government Agreement (2019-2028), which as the name suggests, is a collaborative effort by the whole of ACT Government, ultimately working together to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can meet their social, cultural, and economic needs.
When and how did you tell your employer about your disability?
I told my employer about my disability at the point of initial application. Immediately after I entered in my key credentials such as my name, age, degree I was presented with a page that allowed me to indicate that I had a disability. I was not required to elaborate on what this disability was, or how it impacted me. As I advanced through the various stages of the application process, I was contacted by a member of the Graduate Employment team and asked as to whether I had any special considerations or reasonable adjustments that would make my application experience more comfortable.
Within my first two weeks of employment at ACT Government my supervisor had organized for me to have a conversation with someone within People and Capability to create a document, or ‘passport’ which details any reasonable adjustments that I require whilst working within ACT Government. The purpose of this document is to minimize the need to have multiple repetitive conversations about reasonable adjustments and the specifics of my disability every time I have a new supervisor or start a new role (which is quite frequent throughout the grad program!).
What obstacles have you faced in the workplace? What reasonable adjustments has your employer made to assist you?
Without going into the specifics of all my reasonable adjustments – the arrangement I have with my supervisor is to communicate openly around my strengths and weaknesses related to CMT. This can look like me voicing my concern over my ability to take meeting minutes for an extended period, or even taking a quick walk around the block between tasks.
What three pieces of advice would you give other students with disabilities?