Disability Awareness in the Workplace

GUEST POST: Handling Expectations

Maddy Thomas

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Maddeline “Maddy” Thomas ’18 is a disability activist and will be contributing articles on disability awareness in the workplace and beyond. This is her third article for the blog.


My family is interracial; I am Filipino, Swiss, and Japanese. My dad is Swiss and Japanese, and he had a simple upbringing and was not close to his family. My mom grew up in the Philippines, and her family migrated to the U.S. My grandparents did not have much money raising five kids. Since being a low-income family, my mom and aunts became successful in healthcare to give their kids a better life. My extended family shows love and care by pointing out positives and negatives and highlighting my strengths. I am from a rich neighborhood that is safe and feels like a bubble. My peers only cared about status, intelligence, and money. My upbringing led to high expectations. 

Ziplining in Baguio, Philippines. Have to wear extra protection and bravery to get through expectations.

Low Expectations

Going to school as a kid with physical disabilities was complicated. I only have physical disabilities, but people questioned my intelligence. Educators had the lowest expectations of me, and some of my aides did not have my best interest. They said I wasn’t smart enough, and wanted to hold me back. They portrayed me as a person that I was not. I only had a few teachers and aides who believed in me. They made a positive difference in my life. 

High Expectations

My childhood confused me because I had low expectations from the schools and high expectations from my family. I was also learning how to do things with my disabilities. Even after I graduated from college, my family encouraged me to get my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license and get a high paying job. I know it comes from a great place. However, there are so many factors that I did not achieve that role. I studied for the CPA exam while having two jobs. I was applying for full-time positions at the same time. I submitted 100 applications for over a year. For people with disabilities, you must have a deep connection with the employers, and the employers have to be open to differences and can vision you working for the company. I felt the connection when two companies hired me, and I worked there for two to three years. I went on many interviews, and I did not feel connections with any companies. Many people expected that I should get a high paying job right away. I felt guilty and embarrassed that I did not get a new job. 

Hidden Garden Steps, San Francisco. You have to take one step at a time and enjoy each step of your staircase. There will be times when you will climb up and other times you need to take a step back—give yourself room for development. Your end goal is the top, but you have to keep climbing.

How to Handle Expectations? 

Career/Job — Even though I have many expectations, I pass through, and I follow my path. I enjoy helping college students and people with disabilities for my jobs. I didn’t want to leave for a full-time position that might not be the best fit. In the future, I will probably get a full-time job at my current job at SJSU or another company. 

Family/Friends — I even felt hesitant to let new people and family in. It’s hard to put in the effort and don’t get the same back. I can only trust a few people, and we can be ourselves around each other. I can have others in my life and be okay that I am not as close to them. The best thing is to try to get along.

READ MORE about Maddy on her website: https://ability-resilient-balance-mt.com/

43 replies »

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