Are You Disabled?

I once had a boss – well, I have a boss – who believes that embracing diversity is the key to any great team’s success. He works for a company whose main mission is to honor its own humanity, so even though this is Corporate America, I am inclined to believe that he is not full of shit. He is likely the best boss I’ve ever had, and the best boss many would ever have, but his integrity as a leader is an entirely different, detailed matter.

Our blood plunged with the anxiety of change when we heard he was coming, but I think most of us, if not all, were pleasantly surprised. His first order of business was to bring us together.

“Every person here is made up of their own experience,” he told us, in a assured – yet compassionate – voice that demanded attention, “and we all bring those experiences here every day. Working together while recognizing that each and every one of us is different, and using those differences to our advantage is how we build a great team. How we build the best team.”

Little did he know, at the time, that someone on his team was so diverse that she was disabled. That person is me. My name is Allie Burke (hi) and I have schizophrenia. My mental illness qualifies me as a disabled person in today’s corporate environment, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at me. I don’t ‘look schizophrenic’, whatever that means. You don’t always know who has a disability and who doesn’t just by looking at them and that’s because disabilities are not really disabilities at all.

They are abilities.

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