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  • Beyssa Buil

Spaude Affirms Supportive Environment is Vital to Job Success

FSACentral is proud to once again celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month by featuring people with disabilities who are out in the workforce.

Rev. Kristina Spaude is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Tarpon Springs.

Hometown: Tarpon Springs (originally from Cleveland, Ohio)

Employer: Unitarian Universalist Church in Tarpon Springs. She previously worked as a chaplain of a trauma health center and did a chaplaincy residency and fellowship at a Veterans' hospital.

Position: As the sole minister for a small congregation, Rev. Spaude leads worship regularly, provides pastoral care, supports leaders and leadership development, works with the board of trustees and a number of committees, among other things.

Length of time at current job: Two years.

What is the best advice or encouragement you’d give to a fellow self-advocate about accessing or keeping employment? My experience, whether I’ve worked for large employers or small ones, is that it is vital to have a supportive team to work with and a supportive supervisor -- people who understand that we’re human, our productivity is going to vary, and people who want to make sure you have what you need to be the best employee you can be.

What advice would you give employers about hiring a person with a disability? Almost 20% of people polled for the last census in the US self identified as having at least one disability. It’s important to remember that this can mean depression, limb loss or difference, heart conditions, neurodivergent, or any of a host of other things. Whether or not people are disabled isn’t the issue. Whether or not the work or workplace are accessible is the larger issue. Disabled people bring different kinds of diversity to their work, often strengthening the outcome, if they are allowed to and are supported in doing so.

What’s the most significant employment-related challenge you face as a person with a disability? I have faced some discrimination for being disabled, but what I’ve found even worse is when my disabilities are active (depression, trauma) and them being used against me, when the problems are systemic, not personal. For example, I worked as a chaplain in a Level 1 Trauma Center second shift. The department didn’t offer any supportive services to me for trauma debriefing. Other employees also struggled with the lack of support but were at times able to access some through incident debriefings in the units or staff teams they worked with. But the problem was identified by my supervisors as my disabilities.

In your opinion, how does employing a person with a disability help their quality of life? I can’t imagine the answer for this is different than it would be for nondisabled people. It helps give them a sense of meaning and purpose. Helps them engage in work they enjoy. Gives them a sense of satisfaction. This question is tricky because it assumes commitment to accessibility and quality of life that are not currently reflected in our US-American social narrative.

FSACentral would like to thank Rev. Kristina for her time and thoughtful answers.


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