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At what point do you call it a disability?


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#1 IamtheMumma

Posted 26 December 2019 - 07:05 PM

I'm not looking for pensions or anything. Just clarifying it in my brain. At what point does something like severe arthritis become a disability?

It effects me every day. I'm in varying degrees of pain every day. I take pain medication every day. I can't return to my previous occupations (midi or nursing) because I'm not able to do the full job. I can do desk/paperwork but it still causes pain, its just more manageable.

Do you tick the disability box on job advertisements? Do you mention it in applications?

#2 Amica

Posted 26 December 2019 - 07:21 PM

I wonder the same thing most days OP. Invisible illness, I look fine. I have Psoriatic Arthritis and am looking at a diagnosis of MS next week or January. I'd love to go back to work but I can't even make social plans for the next day or week because I don't know how I might feel.

I'm 41, feel like 81.

#3 MooGuru

Posted 26 December 2019 - 07:27 PM

View PostAmica, on 26 December 2019 - 07:21 PM, said:

I wonder the same thing most days OP. Invisible illness, I look fine. I have Psoriatic Arthritis and am looking at a diagnosis of MS next week or January. I'd love to go back to work but I can't even make social plans for the next day or week because I don't know how I might feel.

I'm 41, feel like 81.

I regularly say "I'm doing great for an 83 year old."

Following out of interest.

#4 BeachesBaby

Posted 26 December 2019 - 07:35 PM

I’ve wondered this too. I’m young, but I had a bad injury to my ankle as a teen, and it’s been degrading ever since. The joint is now mostly bone on bone, and I’ll need to use it for another 50-60 years, so it’s not ideal timing to have worn out already. At this point elective amputation will likely be my choice in a few years when the pain gets to the point where I can’t sleep through the night (my orthopedist’s words), and I wonder about whether I’d be more disabled now, or more disabled with a really useful, modern blade and prosthetic which would give me more function and movement than my natural foot and ankle do today. I’d be able to compete in the disabled portion of races and such, but if all goes well I’d be running faster and for longer than I’d be able to on my real foot. It’s a brain teaser where the line is, I’ll give you that.

#5 Astrocyte

Posted 26 December 2019 - 07:38 PM

I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was a 9. The past few years have been a battle trying to find a medication that works, dealing with side effects, and finding balance between rest and activity. I am registered with my university’s disability services for my rheumatoid arthritis and some other health issues but I haven’t really found I need to use the accommodations I am eligible for for the rheumatoid arthritis. I study nursing and had a major flare up at the end of semester 1 this year and during placement, but was able to manage with some extra medication. I probably should have sought extra support because it was a severe flare up but I tend to minimise my health issues.

I don’t think I’d have a problem telling an employer I had rheumatoid arthritis but I don’t consider myself disabled. I always think other people are worse off than me and that I’m faking it.

#6 Amica

Posted 26 December 2019 - 07:46 PM

PP my initial diagnosis was Rheumatoid Arthritis but because my tendons are affected as well as joints, plus my DIP joints in fingers and spine are affected (rare in Rheumatoid) my diagnosis was changed a few months ago. Apparently I can look forward to developing the psoriasis in the next 10 years!

I haven't found a drug yet either and I don't yet qualify for biologics. I can't take methotrexate at the moment because I'm breastfeeding but everything else I have been unsuccessful on. Sulphasalazine is pure evil.

Edited by Amica, 26 December 2019 - 07:47 PM.


#7 Astrocyte

Posted 26 December 2019 - 07:58 PM

View PostAmica, on 26 December 2019 - 07:46 PM, said:


I haven't found a drug yet either and I don't yet qualify for biologics. I can't take methotrexate at the moment because I'm breastfeeding but everything else I have been unsuccessful on. Sulphasalazine is pure evil.

I’m currently on my 5th biologic. The 4th one worked for 4 years almost and then just stopped working earlier this year. The new one isn’t doing as well but I still have another 2 months left of the trial. Methotrexate and leflunomide gave me terrible side effects and sulphasalazine was pointless even trying.

I do worry what will happen if I fail this drug because there aren’t many left for me to try. It’s just so hard to find a combination that works with minimal side effects. Plus I’m only 31 and will be trying for children in the next few years so that also throws the medication and disease the oit of whack. Currently the best thing that works is prednisone but you can’t be on that long term and it really messes with my mental health.

The more I think about it the more I see that it is a problem that affects me daily. I see it more of an invisible illness.

#8 Chaotic Pogo

Posted 26 December 2019 - 08:02 PM

I have osteo and rheumatoid arthritis along with other stuff.

In my mind, it’s a disability when it stops you doing stuff other people take for granted, whether because of the pain or a literal inability to do that movement.

My kids have ASD, another invisible (for two of them) disability. The diagnosis for this disability specifically requires ‘significant functional impairment ...’

Not being able to do the job you trained for is a significant functional impairment IMO. For whatever the reason, and assuming it’s relatively permanent, not ‘just’ a broken leg you recover from in the ordinary course.

Just because it’s harder for others doesn’t mean you are faking it, either. I managed bad pain for years without knowing how bad it really was until I had a joint replacement and got onto biologicals. I woke up every morning for the next 3 years amazed a certain spot didn’t hurt.

I still have a disability. It’s just a lot easier to manage now and has a much lower functional impact on me day to day. If I have a bad day it’s easier for me to be gentler on myself if i recognise it really is a bit tougher for me than many others.  Acknowledging that doesn’t mean I think other people don’t also have it much tougher than me either.



#9 Amica

Posted 26 December 2019 - 08:05 PM

Totally sucks PP.

For what it's worth, I went into remission during pregnancy. 3 weeks post pardum though I went into MASAIVE flare and never recovered back to anything that even nearly resembles remission, 14 months and counting.

I hope you find something that works. I wonder if going back onto the old one again at some point down the track would work?

#10 jayskette

Posted 26 December 2019 - 08:22 PM

only declare it if it does impact on your ability to perform your job. my colleague has celebran palsy but the tiredness that goes along with it meant she gets a special car park at the back dock which is the closest to her desk then even any of the disabled spots.
I have MH that is easily classified as disability but I choose not to disclose it and when it does impact my work I can often disguise it.

#11 Ivy Ivy

Posted 26 December 2019 - 08:28 PM

A health condition is a disability if it impairs your senses and/or functioning performance.  So in your case, yes, you have a disability, you cannot do your usual work tasks because of your health.

It's up to you whether to declare it on forms or tell anyone about it.

#12 SM3s Fight Song

Posted 26 December 2019 - 10:25 PM

I think I'd ere on the side of disclosing only if I needed adjustments to the job.  Just because I'd fear discrimination.

I think of myself as being ill rather than disabled. My illness certainly causes significant functional impairment and has stopped me working for over a decade.  It's complicated by the fact that I can't tolerate more than the occasional pain killer, no matter how overwhelmingly bad the pain gets.  I think partially its that no one looking at me would guess I was sick. And what Astrocyte said about thinking others have it worse than me.  That because what I have is invisible and because things like the ndis don't classify it as a disability and because some of those nearest to me won't even consider my limitations I struggle to classify myself as disabled.  But I like what chaotic pogo said about it.  I just really struggle to treat myself with that kindness because of the way DH is about my illness.

#13 22Fruitmincepies

Posted 26 December 2019 - 11:18 PM

Hi to all the other arthritis peeps! I probably wouldn’t say I have a disability at the moment. However almost 10 years ago I injured myself very badly, I was on crutches for a couple of years, had lots of surgery, and was unsure if I’d ever walk without an aid. Then I got a disabled parking permit. So I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what disabled meant and if I was, and I had to conclude that I was. I had to plan outings thoroughly, and frequently turned  down invitations. Compared to then I live a pretty normal life, and despite being in pain most days and not being able to go back to work (I use my hands a lot with a lot of fine motor stuff - currently my hands struggle folding a pile of washing!), I consider myself ill rather than disabled. Hopefully that doesn’t change anytime soon.

#14 IamtheMumma

Posted 28 December 2019 - 06:06 PM

Thanks for the replies.

Guess I fit the disability criteria. I've spoken to a few places over the last two days who have all advertised they encouraged diversity and will provide support for people with disabilities.

Its a load of crap. As soon as I ask what support is available, the conversation falters and what was previously an enthusiastic conversation, becomes a "Well apply and lets see what happens".

#15 Yippee-Ki-Yay

Posted 29 December 2019 - 08:56 AM

It’s a tough one isn’t it? My mental illnesses are sometimes completely disabling, making it nearly impossible to do even the most basic tasks. That said, sometimes my mental health is quite stable and I can cope quite well with everyday life. My physical issues (spinal stenosis and medication exacerbated Parkinsonism) have a much much bigger impact of my quality of life and ability to function. Not being able to spend for more than a few minutes, not being able to walk more than 100 meters, severe neuralgia and muscle stiffness ec. I guess if you combined the two issues, I would probably qualify as disabled. I don’t consider myself disabled though but maybe that is just me being a bit stubborn, or enjoying denial.

When looking for work some years ago, I began to look for work in public service and decided to apply under the disability employment scheme, but never had a single response. I applied for the same jobs without using the disability portal and got interviews. I didn’t have to disclose the nature of my impairments, just that I had some. Ive not used similar schemes since and I have had a fair few interviews and a couple of job offers over the last couple of years.

I am completely incapable of working full time. I would really love to, but my mind and body say no. I think the max I would be able to work would be about 30 hours a week. I am hoping that my uni qualifications will eventually place me in a position to earn a reasonable sum without needing to work full time.  I have years of study left though and will need to do a post grad to be able to get that kind of work.

I think if my ability to work declines further, I would probably seek assistance from a disability focused recruitment agency/job seeker agency.

Like a PP mentioned, I only disclose if it is relevant to the position.

#16 71Cath

Posted 29 December 2019 - 09:06 AM

I’ve often wondered the same thing OP. I have a chronic heart condition, I’ve never classified it as a disability as I am worried about discrimination at work. It certainly impacts my life and ability to function though, so I wonder if I’ve crossed the line. It’s hard to know.

#17 Caitlin Happymeal

Posted 29 December 2019 - 09:25 AM

Gosh it's a tricky one isn't it.

Sort of similar vein, and your work issue will be something I have to navigate with my daughters in the future, but we have two on the spectrum. One is level 1 and one is level 2 under the DSM, however, as we all know, the word spectrum denotes how there are a mix of challenges/capabilities across a wide array of domains.

But because she can talk, and her sensory issues aren't obvious to those who don't live with her, "level 1" child gets nothing from NDIS. "Level 2" child got access to it no questions asked. To be honest, DD with level 1 has more functional impairments than other daughter because her anxiety prevents her from doing many things without a major meltdown. I guess my point is just that disability is really tricky to define and even the agencies responsible for supporting those with disability don't really have a great definition. It's very dependant on each individual.

My gut feeling in your case is that since you can no longer do the clinical aspect of the job you trained for, you sit in that area of disability and justifiably should have accommodations in your workplace. How you go about disclosing this in applications without experiencing discrimination, I don't know. In my state, when applying for gov positions in your field (Which I'm also in) there is a section down the bottom where you are asked if you identify as any particular groups, for example, women, First Australians, disability etc. There is a text box to add more info if you see fit. I would assume most states have the same sort of thing?

I'm not sure how that goes when actually processing applications though - I assume they have quotas. The only one I identified with is being a woman, which the vast majority are in our industry, so probably didn't have much of an impact on my application.

This is definitely an area where we don't have enough effective advocacy, which is a shame. You've worked hard in your field, you should be able to move into some form of work where you are supported because you would have a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience.

#18 JoanFontaine

Posted 29 December 2019 - 01:11 PM

It’s an interesting discussion for me. I’m laid low with severe migraines for which no meds seem to work, a few times a month. It impacts significantly on my ability to keep up with workload at those times.  A friend has suggested I ask my workplace for ‘reasonable adjustments’ to my workload, but I struggle to see migraines as a disability per se. How would I look into this?

#19 MsLaurie

Posted 29 December 2019 - 07:42 PM

View PostIamtheMumma, on 28 December 2019 - 06:06 PM, said:

As soon as I ask what support is available, the conversation falters and what was previously an enthusiastic conversation, becomes a "Well apply and lets see what happens".

Are you asking “what support is available” or saying something like “are you open to flexible working arrangements”? They might be being awkward as they’re wondering how long is a piece of string and what type of accommodations you need.

If you’re applying for the types of work you can do, and at close to the time fraction you can manage, then I would not disclose until the end of an interview. EG I went for a full time job a while ago, while only working 4 days and no intention of increasing. The interview seemed to go well, so at the “any questions?” stage I said “I understand this may make me a less attractive candidate but i’m currently 0.8FTE, and I would need to stay with that fraction” we discussed it a little more and they offered me the position a few days later.

Potentially if you’re clear about what accomodations you’ll need (shorter days? More breaks? A sit/stand desk? Work from home some days?) then you might be able to break through the barrier a little easier. And disclosing after they’ve met you but before a decision has been made seems reasonably fair to both.




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