Kathy Fieckert has multiple sclerosis (MS) and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). She is a full time wheelchair user but that hasn’t stopped her becoming a senior tuberculosis consultant and working all over the world in the field of infectious diseases.
Name: Kathy Fiekert
The employment/study you proved possible…:
I’ve studied the following qualifications:
- MSc in Control of Infectious diseases
- Diploma in Community Health & Development
- Diploma in General Nursing
- various certificates (e.g. Tropical Medicine, basic medical laboratory examinations, relief and development programme management, etc.)
I am currently working as a Senior Tuberculosis Consultant at the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation (providing consultancies and assistance to Ministries of Health worldwide).
Your disability in your own words…:
I have Multiple Sclerosis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a congenital disorder of the connective tissue causing joint instability, hypermobility and frequent dislocations). I rely on a wheelchair full-time.
What did you need to do in order to make this employment/study possible alongside your disability? What obstacles did you have to negotiate and how?:
It takes tenacity and creativity. My job requires long hours and a lot of long-distance travel. Accessibility is often a problem, but I have discovered that people abroad are almost always very keen to help and find creative solutions to overcoming accessibility issues. The biggest worry when traveling is that the wheelchair and assistive equipments survives the airport luggage handling and gets to the destination without damage. However, there are loads of brilliant new mobility assistive devices available (e.g. My wheelchair folds small enough to fit into the overhead locker, and I have a power assist attachment) – I have dictation software on my computer to prevent repetitive stress injuries (typing on the computer) to my hands. At university there were many assistance options available to help disabled students (e.g. longer time for written exams, or a writer one could dictate to).
It is important to get well informed as to what is available and what ones rights are-then being persistent in asking for it! 🙂
What advice would you give to someone just starting this journey?:
Inform yourself, what your rights are and what is available out there. Keep pushing the boundaries – that is how we improve access and possibilities for everyone (it is gettting easier).
Don’t take no for an answer – if you want to do it – do it (it might take several tries, but do not give up).
Do not hesitate to ask other people for advice (especially people who have similar hurdles to overcome – it is often the little tips and tricks we can teach each other, that make all the difference).
Share your experience with others.
Your education provider.:
I have studied in many places (including India and Ethiopia) – but my post-graduate studies were taken at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London.
You can find Kathy Fiekert on Linkedin.