Picture looks bright for Laura

Image: Laura Masters with Sir Edward John Poynter’s Helena and Hermina at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Credit: Saul Steed

Despite a shock diagnosis, this talented young woman is reaching for the top – thanks to the right support from her employer and JobAccess.

Laura Masters isn’t letting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) thwart her career ambitions.

The passionate art lover was just 28-years-of-age working in her dream job at the Art Gallery of South Australia when she received the shock diagnosis that she had MS.

Thanks to a very supportive employer – and assistance from JobAccess – she has been able to continue working, learning and making a significant contribution to one of the world’s most prestigious galleries.

Four years later, she’s still a highly valued member of the team with her sights set on one day becoming Gallery Registrar.

“When you acquire a disability, and haven’t always lived with one, it’s quite confronting to be suddenly faced with obstacles. You are thrown into so much uncertainty about what is going to be possible. It’s quite amazing I am still able to do what I do,” said Laura who has a fine arts undergraduate degree and a Master of Arts, Museum and Curatorial Studies from University of Adelaide

The Gallery’s Deputy Director, Mark, can’t speak highly enough of Laura’s contribution and encourages any employer to have an open mind about employing people or adjusting to employees who acquire disabilities.

“Laura has very strong professional capabilities and has shown incredible fortitude and resilience. I am fully aware that she has ambitions (to be a senior leader) and has set her sights very high, which I just love to hear.

“My advice (to other employers) would be let’s see this as an opportunity to do something great,” Mark said.

But the picture isn’t always rosy. Laura works extremely hard to manage her fatigue, which also can affect her cognitive function, vision and balance. And then there’s the undesirable face of discrimination.

Recently, she parked her car in a disabled spot while out shopping in front of two men having coffee, who said loudly with derision: ‘She doesn’t look disabled.’

“I always imagined what I would say to help educate if I was challenged. But it happened and I didn’t have the courage to do that …

“Instead, I just cried.”

Finding solutions to support Laura

Laura has moved roles from the copyright area to managing the gallery’s collection database, as part of the gallery's cross-departmental acknowledgment of her contribution and to support her ambitions.

To help her manage MS symptoms at work, Laura contacted JobAccess and applied for financial assistance to make workplace adjustments through the Employment Assistance Fund (EAF).

Laura was contacted by a JobAccess Professional Adviser to discuss eligibility requirements for the EAF, understand some of the barriers he experiences at work and organise a free workplace modification assessment. Such an assessment is conducted by an external, independent assessor – a qualified professional who will look at the workplace and help identify any barriers that may exist.

Occupational Therapist, Wayne, was assigned to support Laura’s workplace assessment. He said that Laura faced some unusual challenges as she works in a cramped area with no windows, and limited air circulation to protect the priceless artworks.

“This one took a little bit of thinking through to find the ‘middle ground’ where Laura’s needs were met as much as possible, without impacting on the artworks,” said Wayne.

That’s where JobAccess stepped in, providing Laura a special fan to help control the temperature and the dust particles.

“Wayne also worked with me to move safely through obstacles of navigating around a heritage building,” said Laura, whose MS has been stable for two-and-a-half years.

JobAccess also assisted with computer forearm support and a roller to help reduce fatigue.

“I’m really grateful for the supports because when it comes to reducing fatigue, every little bit helps.”

Looking for support with workplace adjustments? Talk to us.

There is a wide range of support available from JobAccess for people with disability, employers, and service providers.

JobAccess has managed over 59,000 applications for funding workplace adjustments since 2006. Each one makes a difference by helping people with disability get work, keep work, and progress their careers.

Contact JobAccess on 1800 464 800 to speak to our friendly and resourceful Advisers about workplace adjustments and the Employment Assistance Fund. You can also submit an online enquiry through the JobAccess website.

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