Last week we recognised the strength, resilience, and unique abilities of individuals around the world for International Day of People with Disability. Carmen Cordoba, HR Manager for Webuild, bravely shared her story, living with an unseen disability.
“People with unseen disabilities may not share their disability status as they fear they may face discrimination for not 'appearing to have a disability’.
“On 1 September 2016, I heard the words that changed my life forever: “you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the treatment will be a weekly soft chemo the rest of your life”. Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA for short, is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake, causing inflammation (painful swelling), deformity and immobility in the affected parts of the body. RA mainly attacks the joints, lungs and eyes. RA doesn’t have a cure but can be managed.
“I must confess, one part of me was relief at that moment, because having a diagnosis meant I wasn’t crazy, but when my doctor continued to explain all about the illness and the treatment, I realised how difficult it will be to have a normal life, this condition will hinder my full and effective participation in society…
“Treatment started, and oh boy, it was bad. With the soft chemo secondary effects came the “darkness” depression, until one day, I realised I was trying to continue my normal life pretending my RA didn’t exist, putting more pressure on myself, not letting myself heal and learn a new life rhythm.
“I listed what was valuable for me, and one of the first things was my career, so I decided in that moment to not let my disability be a barrier and use my position in HR to support others.
“Moving to today, my team all see me every day in the office, working in construction since 2018 on projects like Sydney Light Rail and now the SSTOM project, and dedicating my time not only to lead by example and show what a person with disability can do, but also creating the platform for others to join and feel comfortable, working in an environment that supports and values them breaking the stigma of disability.
“Me sharing today will have meaning if tomorrow you see your colleagues with kindness. Remember, what you see every day is the surface, but you don’t know all the battles that person is experiencing. Show kindness and respect and you will be part of the change.
A sincere thank you to Carmen for sharing her story and helping break down barriers to support other individuals in the community.
The theme for International Day of People with Disability this year is: United in action to rescue and achieve the sustainable development goals for, with and by persons with disabilities.
By listening to the experiences of people with disability, we can challenge our own perceptions about disability and make positive changes in the community.
Let’s all take action this December, and all year round, to help make Australia more inclusive for people with disability.