My Experience Working in The Service Industry Despite My Disability
From the day of my amputation, I told myself not to give up. I refused to be singularly defined as a disabled person. Being disabled is only part of my identity. I passionately believe in self-determination for disabled people and I am committed to living an ordinary life like others in my community.
I needed my own living space. In the beginning, many people thought I would not be able to cope with living in my own flat, but I did.
When it came to my job search, it was initially difficult as many employers had little understanding of Persons with Disability (PWD) and did not have suitable jobs for me.
I Gave it a Try
One day, I was recommended by my disabled friend to work in YMCA. I decided to give it a try. I went for the interview, and the General Manager was impressed with my presentation. The General Manager was satisfied with my interactions and decided to create a job for me in YMCA.
During the interview, the General Manager asked me what job I could do and the pay scale I was looking at. I replied, “any job, any amount”.
He then asked me to wait two weeks for his reply. After two weeks, I got the call for a second interview with Human Resource. I handed over my certificates, and he saw the leadership experience I had. He then decided to offer me a job as a Housekeeping Attendant.
The Beginning Was Tough But I Never Gave Up
I worked together with colleagues who had special needs. Initially, I had a few communication problems with them, but the manager told me to be patient. They had various kinds of behaviour that I had to be sensitive to. We were not allowed to scold them and would defer to the manager to handle any issues, as he was answerable to their parents. As time went by, I managed to work well with them.
Sometimes, they would be attached to me to do housekeeping work. I would guide them, managing and giving them simple tasks to do. Sometimes, I had to be strict in guiding them, ensuring that they performed the job properly. Otherwise, I would refer them to the manager for disciplinary action.
I was also given additional jobs to do. One of them was to paint the rooms, and I was the only one to do it. It was not easy to paint the rooms due to the beddings, so I had to protect them with plastic covers, and I had to be incredibly careful.
Whenever business was good, most of the rooms would have been booked. Thus, I could not paint them, and the supervisor would give me other tasks to do, such as the laundry. Other tasks included folding towels and preparing to issue them to the housekeeper. Sometimes, I would also help out in the Café whenever there was not enough staff.
Patience When Training
During the school holidays, we would sometimes get new staff who had special needs. They are given training for about six weeks to perform their job. For example, I would assist the housekeeper in training them to fold bed sheets, clean the rooms, and vacuum the floor. While the housekeeper trained and guided them, I would observe them and inform the housekeeper about their condition and behaviour. When communicating with people with special needs, their mindset might not be fully focused. Thus, we must put ourselves in their shoes to understand them.
Individuals with special needs can be very playful, while some may behave strangely while working, such as talking to themselves. Some will keep asking for reasons when reprimanded, while others may cry.
However, when I work with them, I will not look down on their condition. Instead, I will always take care of them and guide them. I have worked with them for the past two years.
YMCA conducts events like the Spartan Race and the Inclusive Climb up Mount Fuji. I was encouraged to take part in these events. I agreed as I believed it would help build up my confidence. For example, in the Spartan Race, I had to overcome 20 obstacles over five kilometres. So far, I have done three Spartan Races, and I have felt a great sense of achievement as a disabled person. I was the only amputee among the participants.
The training was empowering and reinforced the need for me to live independently with a disability. Additionally, I felt better informed about the potential risks people with disabilities could encounter during a race. Practice is essential; it is the key ingredient to having a successful race.
For the Mount Fuji Challenge in 2018, I went through the training together with other PWDs. However, due to my need to undergo dialysis, I was unable to take part.
Living Life to the Fullest
Outside of working in YMCA, I am also active in sports like Lawn Bowl. I represented Singapore and won a medal in Hong Kong in 2018.
As time goes on, I found myself enjoying work at YMCA. I get a lot of support from the staff and management, which makes me energetic despite my condition. I feel inspired working in YMCA as they take care of PWDs and understand our condition.
As a PWD, we cannot think that we are on the losing end because of our condition. We can overcome challenges – remaining unaffected by others, thinking positive, and getting rid of our fear. We must develop a strong mindset to overcome challenges. For example, try taking up activities such as yoga and meditation to cultivate a healthy mind and body. Ultimately, it is all in the mind.