Better understanding the workplace experiences of those who develop a physical disability in mid-career

Published in Centralian Advocate Newspaper
Tuesday 28 August 2018
By Annie Ernst, Disability Advocacy Service

If like me you are between the ages of 32 and 50 and you have developed a disability while between these ages, you probably found that it impacted on your employment in some way. Sydney University researchers Paul Williamson and Associate Professor Jennifer Smith-Merry would like to hear from you about the impact that your disability has had on your career. They are conducting a survey entitled the “Onset of Physical Disability Mid-Career” because there is a lot of room for improvement in employment for people with disabilities in Australia and they are trying to identify both strategies that work and where there are gaps. It was widely reported in 2011 that Australia ranked 21st out of the 29 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Countries but when I went searching to find a more current statistic I was not successful. So, if things haven’t changed a great deal – there seems to be plenty of scope for progress.
The survey is targeting both people who have continued to work (even if you are not in the same job) and those who are no longer working. I have taken the survey and I need to warn you that some of the questions are confronting and I found that there were at times uncomfortable emotions bubbling to the surface that I had not expected. There are phone numbers included in the survey material for both Lifeline and Beyond Blue should you find it too overwhelming. That said, I found the survey to be worthwhile and very interesting and it certainly helped me to sort out how I felt about my own workplace experiences.

In Paul’s words “Speaking to the people most affected – those who have been able to continue working, and those who have not – provides essential first hand perspectives on the issues facing people with disability at work. These first hand perspectives must be better incorporated into the narrative if real change is to be achieved – change that will see more people with disability do what many take for granted.”

The hope that this survey carries for me is that the more voices that speak up about workplace experiences – both positive and negative – of people with disabilities, the more likely we are to be heard and the more likely there is to be positive change in the future. My goal is to continue working for as long as I am physically able – and that time I know can be extended by some workplace adaptations and understanding.

If you are in the target demographic and would like to participate in the survey, or even if you just want to know a bit more about it, go to: Alternatively, if you are unable to access the online survey you can contact the Chief Investigator Paul Williamson by email at [email protected] or by telephone on 0402 974 010. I found Paul very approachable and happy to chat.

Skip to content