Interview with Malinda Van Aalst
- Published on October 12, 2023
Today Able and Available had the opportunity to chat with Malinda Van Aalst, an amazing professional proofing that professionals with disabilities only need a chance to show all their talent. Read the interview and learn from her experiences as an employee.
Highlights about accommodations in the workplace:
“Everyone’s disability is unique and making some slight modifications to the “workspace” can usually resolve any issues.”
“It’s sometimes embarrassing to bring up issues but it’s easier if someone asks in the first place. How can we make things easier for you to be successful?”
“I usually need to modify the color of my screen, make things bigger and sit in areas which don’t receive the glare of the sun.”
Able & Available: Can you please introduce yourself and provide a brief overview of your professional background and qualifications?
Malinda: Hello, I’m Malinda Van Aalst. For the past 25 years, I have worked in the event industry in many departments – finance, sales and operations. The past 14 years, my main role has been Finance Administrator with focus on Accounts Receivable. I have a Business Administration (Accounting) diploma from Mount Royal University (College when I attended). I have recently taken additional courses in Excel, QuickBooks Online and Fundamentals of Accounting.
Able & Available: What motivated you to pursue a career in your field, and what do you find most fulfilling about your work?
Malinda: I have always been a very detail oriented, analytical and a “numbers” person, so accounting seemed the right path to pursue. It’s very fulfilling when you have discrepancies in “figures” and you are able to figure it out. Being “in balance” is such a rewarding feeling.
Able & Available: Can you share any specific challenges or barriers you've faced in your career due to your disability? How have you overcome them?
Malinda: The most challenging barrier (career related) is my vision. I usually need to modify the color of my screen, make things bigger and sit in areas which don’t receive the glare of the sun.
Able & Available: How do you approach the job application and interview process when disclosing your disability? Do you have any strategies or advice for others in a similar situation?
Malinda: I tend not to disclose my disability on my application/resume unless the position/company is promoting/involved with disabilities. I usually include a note that I’m a member of the Ultimate Parasports Association as a subtle indicator that I may have some disability. I think that’s a good way to open-up the subject but not required to go into too much detail on the resume.
Able & Available: Have you encountered any workplace accommodations or accessibility issues in your previous roles? How were these issues resolved, and what improvements would you recommend for future employers?
Malinda: The main issue I have is parking, is there availability nearby. My previous employer found a handicapped stall in the building lot and provided me with the parking spot. This alleviated a huge amount of stress. I feel employers should ask “how can we accommodate you and make it easier for you”? “Do you have any special requirements”?
Able & Available: What strengths or unique perspectives do you believe individuals with disabilities bring to the workforce, and how can employers benefit from these contributions?
Malinda: The main contribution would be to “think outside the box” and possible alternatives to the norm. Everyone’s disability is unique and making some slight modifications to the “workspace” can usually resolve any issues.
Able & Available: In your experience, what can employers and colleagues do to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for people with disabilities?
Malinda: Like I had mentioned previously, I think it’s crucial for the employer to inquire as to the requirements of the employee. It’s sometimes embarrassing to bring up issues but it’s easier if someone asks in the first place. How can we make things easier for you to be successful? I have always been part of a very supportive work environment with regards to my disability.
Able & Available: What advice do you have for other disabled individuals who are pursuing their career goals or considering entering the workforce for the first time?
Malinda: I know that it’s very stressful especially if you are just starting your career and having your first interview. The hardest part is taking the first step and once you’ve started, you’ll become more relaxed and confident. I find it relaxes me when I tell people ahead of time that I have a disability and go over any requirements I may have beforehand i.e.: where is the best place to park, closest washrooms… whatever you might require.
Able & Available: How do you manage work-life balance and self-care while juggling the demands of your career and any necessary accommodations for your disability?
Malinda: It is so important to have work-life balance. For me, I’ve always had the privilege of working part-time (4 days/week). I know for some people that’s not possible. I set time each day to focus on my health and exercise regime. If I don’t keep myself healthy, I can’t bring my “best” to the workplace.
Able & Available: Are there any misconceptions or stereotypes about disabilities in the workplace that you would like to address or dispel?
Malinda: Most things are possible; you just need to discover the challenges and how to overcome them as a team. Focus on what you “can-do” and not what you “can’t”.
Thank you Cintia for this opportunity to chat with you!