Brave conversations help people succeed

December 2023

Liam* is in his 40s and has worked in a NSW Government department for 3 years. This is his first secure job after decades of trying to find a place in the workforce, but he’s thriving in it.

Liam was born with spina bifida but was taught from a young age to focus on his strengths rather than seeing it as a barrier. His disability was largely invisible until he was in his 20s when he started to use mobility aids.

Today he uses a wheelchair but can walk short distances with crutches. He says this mixed mobility often surprises or confuses people.

Liam has frequent severe headaches and back and leg pain, which affect his concentration. He needs some adjustments around communication, and appreciates when people give him clear information, including the “why” behind tasks.

Fatigue is a significant barrier for him, so he needs to work part-time. He also has regular physiotherapy and other appointments to juggle.

He says it’s important we don’t “set people up to fail” by assuming what they can and can’t do.

Since his workplace adjustment passport was endorsed at the start of 2023, Liam has worked 1 day a week in the office and 2 days a week from home, which is much more sustainable for him.

Liam experienced some initial physical access challenges in the office environment and requested access to underground parking in the office building. The initial response was “disappointing” – he was told the parking was only for fleet vehicles.  But several months later parking was made available, which has made a huge difference for Liam.

Liam says people in his situation and their managers need to “be brave”. They should “be prepared to have ongoing and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. It’s got to be give and take.”

Workplace adjustments should be ‘living documents’ that are regularly reviewed to see how they are working for everyone involved.

Liam also says that “leadership language matters” and it’s important for there to be clear and consistent communications that make it clear to everyone that there will not be negative consequences for asking for workplace adjustments.

Liam says everyone has a role to play in inclusion. He sees himself as having a responsibility to speak up and help to increase awareness and understanding. It’s also important that people see diverse senior leaders being open about their own challenges.

“We’re all imperfect humans doing our best to work things out.”

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual 

Information alert

For more workplace adjustment information, NSW Government managers and employees can visit the Public Service Commission website or contact their Diversity & Inclusion, Work, Health & Safety or HR teams. You may also wish to reach out to your Disability Employee Network (DEN).

If you have trouble accessing workplace adjustments or experience disability discrimination at work, please contact Anti-Discrimination NSW on 1800 670 812.

Last updated:

01 Dec 2023

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