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A story of resilience: Carol Saad on why accessibility matters

5 minute read

A story of resilience: Carol Saad on why accessibility matters

By: Sovereign Insurance

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Not all disabilities are visible. That’s why Sovereign supports the Visible & Invisible Differing Abilities ERG (Employee Resource Group). Carol Saad, Sovereign’s Digital Marketing Specialist, has two ‘invisible’ disabilities: epilepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We talk to Carol about her accessibility journey, why accessibility matters, and why she’s so passionate about incorporating accessibility into her work.

When did you first become aware of accessibility in your life?

I have an invisible disability that can quickly become very visible: epilepsy. I was 22 when my epilepsy manifested. It’s rare that it manifests in adults, so my entire life plan was thrown out of order. It worsened my depression. There were things I wanted to do that I just couldn’t do anymore. For example, I worked behind the scenes theatre, so having seizures meant I could no longer work with the equipment.

How has your perspective on accessibility changed since then?

I didn’t really think about accessibility and invisible disabilities before. I thought about the more obvious things, like wheelchairs, blindness, being hard of hearing. Since I became aware of accessibility in my own life, I’ve started to think about things differently. For example, flashing lights can help people who are hard of hearing if a fire alarm goes off. But for people whose seizures are triggered by photosensitivity, flashing lights could be an issue.

How has this impacted your role at Sovereign?

Having seizures in the office forced me to have a conversation with my colleagues. Fortunately, they’ve been super supportive. Kudos to Sovereign, I was still given opportunities to thrive and grow — I’ve switched career paths and been promoted. I’m currently in charge of our website. Accessibility is even part of my job; I make sure our external website is accessible to everyone. I’m also working to expand DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) with the content team here at Sovereign.

Why did you get involved with the Visible & Invisible Differing Abilities ERG?

I joined the ERG because I wanted to share my learnings with others and help them have those conversations with their colleagues. I’ve had seizures in the office, so I know the importance of making sure that not only am I comfortable, but that the people around me are also comfortable. For example, can they ask me about it? How do I communicate what’s appropriate? How can we handle disabilities in the workplace in a way that’s dignified?

This ERG exists to give people a voice, and to provide a better space to those who otherwise feel isolated. We’re a group who understands the need for confidentiality, but can also help with confidence. We also help to educate managers and team leaders on the importance of compassion and how to have respectful and relevant conversations about differing abilities.

Looking back on your journey, what are some key life lessons you’ve learned?

ADHD has helped me to find smarter ways to work, such as implementing organizational methods, breaking down tasks, using lists, giving myself more time than I think I need, prioritizing, and learning to say no so I don’t feel overwhelmed. My colleagues have been great — they’ve even provided me with their own tips and tricks.

What advice do you have for other people who have a disability?

Even if you feel alone, there are people who understand where you’re coming from. If you have a trusted colleague, talk to them. If you don’t know who to talk to, any of the ERG leads will lend an ear, and it’s fully confidential. Sometimes it just helps to talk.

If you were to describe accessibility in one word, what would you say?

Confidence. In my ability to be independent. In my ability to speak out. In my ability to support others on their journey. In my ability to accept that I won’t have all the answers. When I first started my journey, I had no confidence in my future. I was defined by my disability. Now, I’m confident enough to say that I’m using it as a tool to make me stronger.