Q: Jill, I’ve got a disability and I feel as though when the elevators are down at work the employers are never as quick to fix them because the majority of employees are able to take the stairs. I am starting to feel the attitudes of some employees getting a little frustrated with me I guess because I’m always the one having to demand speedy repairs. I don’t think I’m the wrong one here. What are your thoughts? Tips on next moves?

– Roxanne R. Warren


A: Roxanne, you are definitely the right one here! It doesn’t matter whether or not your disability confines you to the use of a wheelchair, a walking device or even if it’s an “invisible” disability categorized by extensive joint pains if you are forced to have to walk up stairs, the reality is that your employer knows your situation and it is your right to be accommodated at every step. The “duty to accommodate” legal expectation as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Code, makes things very clear. Your work and your safety depends on this and if your employer isn’t making that their top priority then they aren’t following the law. Work spaces are supposed to undertake accessibility reviews of facilities, service and procedures so they can then create accessibility plans to make their businesses as inclusive as possible to the greater population. What you have described above as the attitudes of some of your colleagues is really quite disappointing. This is your classic case of ableism, where able-bodied persons, their needs and feelings are being privileged over yours. Your next step is to remind your boss about the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Human Resources & Social Development Canada. Visit ohrc.on.ca, hrsdc.gr.ca and the Canadian Association of Professionals with Disabilities canadianprofessionals.org for more.

Q: Jill, my wife is a workaholic. How do I convince her to find more time for herself, for me and the kids? Even when she’s having “down time” she’s still glued to her cellphone or frequently checking her e-mail. I understand she’s got a high-demand job but come on.

–A concerned hubby

A: You are very right. All work and no play is no good. Contrary to popular belief the breaks we take to actually enjoy life, those around us, the genuinely “happy” moments actually make for better work productivity. Forfeiting family for work erodes good communication at home and once that happens tensions are more likely to be on high as arguments quickly erupt if members don’t feel equally valued.

It appears as though “down time” usually happens in spaces where she’s got easy access to her cell and/or computer. That might be your first strategy: To encourage “down time” in places where neither of these are present (i.e. while swimming or playing sports with the family, a night of dancing, or a romantic dinner date on the lower level where the cellphone reception is poor). It might also be about taking small steps first. For instance, meal times afford opportunities for sharing humour or for suggesting a family outing. Hoping that you all are able to eat as a family at least three times a week, this is also a central spot for catching up. Try to extend this time into the living room where the two of you might be able to take in a favourite television show — again another opportunity to connect.

You’ve been very supportive of her work schedule but it is an unfair expectation that you must carry the emotional needs of the family. When someone puts his or her work over everything else, they are sending a message about their priorities. Remind her that she is a great mom and a wonderful wife who has to make more time so that all of you can create new memories in the present rather than having to tap into recycled ones of the past.

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