Heather Anderson has MPS IV Morquio A. She lives independently, works as a Senior Planner at the National Disability Insurance Agency and has a large friendship circle that extends around the world and includes several famous comedians. Heather says getting a job when you have a disability can be difficult at first but with some persistence and an open mind you can end up doing something you love.
Heather was diagnosed with MPS IV Morquio when she was three. Now 32, she lives life much like many others her age. She lives independently, drives a car, works in a challenging job and enjoys the company of her many and varied friends.
During her twenties, Heather lived in student housing and shared apartments with various friends and family. These days however, she likes her “own space, control of the TV remote and a having a spare room for people to come and stay.”
When asked how MPS affects her, Heather says quite simply “it’s just the life I know – I have nothing else to compare it to.” She uses various types of equipment to make daily life easier and to do the things she wants to do. A wheelchair for long distances, various stools around the home to reach up high and pedal extensions and a booster seat to drive her car.
Heather spent five years at university and left with two degrees including one with honours. Despite this, she says, it took her over 12 months to get paid work. “Getting my first job was definitely challenging,” says Heather. “I went to a lot of interviews and mostly got told I didn’t have enough experience – despite the fact that I was clearly a graduate. I kept persisting and was eventually offered a volunteer role at a local community service agency. This lead to some paid work and gave me the experience I lacked.”
“My advice to other adults with MPS trying to gain employment or considering work is that it CAN be done. You just need to give it a shot and don’t be afraid to end up on a different path. I started Uni wanting to be a psychologist, graduated as a Social Worker and now work in the disability sector.”
Not surprisingly, Heather’s work environment at the NDIA is the most accessible she has come across. However, she acknowledges not all places of employment are so. “Sometimes you are dealing with a lack of physical accessibility, other times it’s more about attitudes,” says Heather. “You have to try not to let the knockbacks get to you. There are organisations out there that can help you gain employment and others that can help employers become more disability ready.”
Heather is close to her family. She acknowledges that as a child she took up more of her parent’s time than her brothers, but as an adult she is not so sure. Her mother says now she’s the ‘easy one.’
She has a good and varied bunch of friends, both in Australia and abroad. As for most people, they fall into different categories; those she has known for a long time, those she has met more recently, some are social workers like her, others work in very different fields like comedy. “I have a few comedian friends,” she says. “I catch up with one of them quite regularly, for a cuppa. It’s strange watching him perform on stage, when a few hours earlier we were sitting in a café chatting away. All my friends add different elements to my life – that’s for sure.”