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When Disability Affects Your Career: Exploring Employment Options, Planning Ahead

By Patricia Crucci

Patricia Crucci

Born: Chihuahua, Mexico
Age: 44
Education: Dentistry, Mexican Autonomous University

I have been in the United States for 10 years. When I first came to the United States my English wasn't so good. It was difficult for me to find work despite my advanced training in dentistry. After a while I found work as a dental assistant. I had been working in this position for three years when I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. The condition has affected the speed with which I can do things. It takes me a little longer now than before.

Some of my coworkers are reluctant to accept me, perhaps because of my disability. This may be because I can't work at the same speed I did before my condition worsened and some doctors require fast-working assistants. I may look for assistant work in a slower-paced office with a dentist who is more accommodating to my mobility limitations.

My son also does not understand my condition. This is hard for me. My son is only 16 and I think it is hard for him to understand that his mom now has a progressive disability, one for which there is no cure and one that will progress.

In spite of the lack of support I endure at times, I believe that people with disabilities must find passion and energy inside themselves. For this reason I am continuing my studies at the College of Dupage in Chicago. I am taking English classes there. I have to continue with my work and studies because I am planning to be a teacher's assistant working with children with disabilities when I am no longer able to do dentistry.

I have learned that people who have disabilities need support like everyone else. For this reason I have been attending conferences and meeting with service providers who work with the community.

People with disabilities must not lose their energy and desire to live life. They might have to try twice as hard as other people, but fighting to make it against the odds and the barriers is what makes a person stronger.