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Life at Toast Blog

Be part of the equity equation : National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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Emily M.

Senior Manager, Guest Experience

 

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and the theme this year is "Disability: Part of the Equity Equation." This theme recognizes the vital role people with disabilities play in making the nation's workforce diverse, inclusive, and successful. As a person with a disability, I am grateful that Toast has been so open and inclusive since the start. I have always felt like I could share my experiences if I chose to, and I would be seen and heard. I think this really comes down to Toast's core values, especially “Embracing a Hospitality Mindset.”

 

 

I am a congenital amputee, born without my left arm below the elbow. Depending on the task, I’ve used a prosthesis most of my life. When your body doesn’t fit the standard mold, everything takes more thought and planning. My parents always taught me there wasn't anything I couldn't find a way to do, though, so I became very independent at an early age. I learned to tie my shoes at age 4. (Though it took me until age 31 to braid my own hair! The learning is ongoing.) When I became a parent to Samuel, age 4, and Alexander, age 18 months, I had to learn how to do everything two ways — with and without my prosthesis. I’m also lucky to have a very supportive husband who has always said “you don’t have one hand, we have three.” Things like nursing and diaper changing were so hard. My husband did every diaper change the first month so that I could focus on learning to breastfeed. No one warns you that the first few years of parenthood are so physical. Finding new ways to complete daily tasks is truly a lifelong learning process for many people with disabilities.

 

 

Between moving regularly as a “military brat” and my visible disability, I learned one of the most important skills that has made me successful as an adult: adaptability. I had always worked in an office, but once the pandemic hit, my previous company quickly pivoted to remote work. I was at that company for 10 years, so by that point, many people already knew me in person and knew of my visible disability. Since I’ve always been remote at Toast, though, you wouldn’t know my left hand is missing unless I tell you.

 

Working remotely as a newer employee has prompted a whole different set of challenges around who to tell about my arm and when. I made sure to tell my manager and my direct reports fairly early on, since I'd have prosthetist appointments, but telling others has been very situational. Navigating this new territory has given me some insight into what folks with invisible disabilities must go through — debating how much to share and when. 

 

 

There are some great benefits to working remotely. Not having to commute each day has given me more time back, so I can focus on other things, such as my own wellness and my relationship with exercise. I was never super into sports or exercise, but after having my two children, my relationship with my body changed. I suddenly felt strong and powerful and like my body had done this amazing thing. Exercise became this wonderful outlet for my mental health. Before I worked from home I really struggled with time to fit it in during the day. Now it's much easier. 

 

Even as a remote employee, though, I’ve been able to build a strong community here at Toast. I helped found the disability employee resource group at my last company, and I was really excited to see that Toast already had one. I made a point to join Second To Naan, a community for Toasters with disabilities, as well as allies and caregivers. 

 

For folks who are looking to support co-workers with disabilities (whether they be permanent, temporary, or situational), here is my advice:

  • Have an open mind.

  • Ask questions respectfully.

  • "Disabled" is not a bad word. The disability community works hard to take back pride in that word and to combat ableism. But not everyone's the same, so ask people what they prefer when the time is right.

  • The disability community is incredibly diverse. It intersects with every other identity! And it is the only historically marginalized group that anyone can become a member of at any time.

  • Remember that each person's journey is unique. Meet the person where they are. 


If you are a member of the disabled community, I hope you recognize the great value and perspective you bring to your organization and the impact you can make to create more inclusive environments. For those looking to better support the community, I hope you all take an opportunity to learn more about how you can help remove obstacles to create a more equitable experience for current and future co-workers with disabilities.

 

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