You have a disability and you work?

Hello all, I hope you’ve had a good week and that your weekend has been lovely so far. I am rather excited at the moment as there is only one more week before the summer half term so only one more week of work whooo.

Why is it that there is still a significant gap between the number of people with a disability who are unemployed in relation to the number of non-disabled people who are unemployed? According to reports by Scope, one of the UK’s leading disability charities, fewer than 5 in 10 disabled people are employed compared to 8 in 10 non-disabled people.

Figures show that around half of people with disabilities who are in employment are fearful that they will lose their job as a result of their disability.

The stereotype that having a disability means that you are in a wheelchair is still present in today’s society. Meaning that many individuals who have an ‘invisible’ disability struggle with the issue of when or if to reveal to colleagues or employers that they have a disability.

Invisible disabilities and long-term illnesses can include but are not limited to, visual or hearing impairments, high functioning ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), Mental illness, chronic pain or migraines, arthritis, asthma, epilepsy and diabetes.

It can be a tough decision when entering a new job or going for an interview whether you should disclose the fact that you have a disability. Although we have the equal rights act in the UK, which makes it illegal to discriminate based upon disability if an employer is aware of your disability it makes it that much harder to get or hold down the job.

This may be because employers are unsure or more unwilling to employ someone who needs that extra amount of reasonable adjustments as they may feel it may incur additional costs for the company. Employers may also consider that someone with a disability may not be able to carry out all the functions of the job and may put extra pressure on their colleagues.

These viewpoints are never the reason given when a disabled person doesn’t get the job. Thus the employer is not showing direct discrimination. However, it can be a form of indirect discrimination, especially if the individual is qualified and perfectly capable of carrying out the duties of the job.

I believe that it has always been in my best interest not to disclose my disability in an interview setting. Thus I am not allowing the employer to have that hold over me. If I get the job and I feel comfortable enough to disclose my disability, then I will do so. However, I have never had to do so as of yet.

I know that there will be certain jobs that I’ll never be able to do because of my visual impairment. I’ll never be a surgeon, a firefighter or police officer; I’ll never be a pilot, and I’ll never be able to fight for queen and country. However, I don’t want to mooch off the state either, and I especially don’t want to fall into one of the stereotypical ‘blind’ jobs.

Two of the most common ideas about what blind people can do would be office or IT work. Spoiler alert; not all of us like or are good at either of those types of jobs. Just because we are visually impaired doesn’t mean we instantly know how to code or want to sit on are arsses between the hours of 9 and 5 for five days a week.

The one thing to remember about any individual with a visual impairment is that we’ll have our set of unique talents and passions. We’ll want to do a job that satisfies our needs and wants. Well want to know we have the ability to progress and learn in our jobs while having fun.

For example, I work in a school for children with moderate to multiple and profound learning disabilities. Due to the nature of their ages and disabilities, the children can present with a variety of challenging behaviours. I can hear you all now thinking, ‘wait but how can you help if you can’t accurately see what the children are doing?’ Well, you know what I make my adustments.

In the playground, I’ll walk around more so that I can then get closer to where children are. In the classroom it’s easy enough because it’s a smaller environment; therefore, I don’t notice my sight being a massive issue. Of course, I may miss things but work as a teaching assistant means you’re always part of a team, and I know that my colleagues will always cooperate with me and not against me.

I have also found that working in a SEN school is fast paced and always different therefore everyone will find things challenging and will miss things but that’s the beauty of working in a team that works well together. Others will always be around to notice what you may miss.

When deciding whether or not to disclose a disability, it’s entirely up to each person. Sometimes unexpected work situations may crop up that are related to or complicated by your disability. It’s times like those that it may be pertinent to disclose your disability to your employer or at least your colleagues to see if different solutions can be found to help you cope and improve.

Unfortunately, we still live in a society where we need to prove our worth and our capabilities. The general public still has a horrible lack of knowledge regarding disability and its diversity due to the lack of positive interaction with individuals with a disability.

The media is starting to improve or at least make steps in regards to improving its portrayal of disability. However, there is still a tendency to focus on one of the two extremes ‘Disability Porn’ (calling or viewing someone as inspirational in part or solely based on their disability) or seeing disabled people as incapable, vulnerable and who need protecting and looking after.

Yes, it is true that those of us with any form of disability will need extra support in certain situations. Accepting this help does not make us weak, vulnerable or inspirational it just makes us who we are. We are people who have different challenges and find different ways of coping with those challenges.

We are still, intelligent, passionate, unique individuals who want to achieve happiness, find love, earn our own money, have an as independent life as possible just like anyone else. However, cringy and cliched that is to say and hear it’s the truth.

We don’t need or want others pity as it doesn’t help you or us in any way possible. It makes us feel uncomfortable, and you look like a bit of an idot, to be honest. The reaction of shock or surprise that we can do things by ourselves, lead a normal life and even work and travel is just outrageous and outdated although not a surprise to any of us who have been on the receiving end of that reaction.

The public needs a more normalised and positive outlook on disability and its variety. Employers need to be educated on disability and how it may affect employees and need to consider and review their disability employment policies if they even have any at all. With reasonable adjustments, some don’t even have to be expensive or brought at all, people with disabilities can work. Discussing, Reviewing and continuously updating techniques and allowing open communication between employers and employees can be a vital and active way of allowing companies to move forward in their understanding, acceptance and ability to help those employees who are disabled.

It does sadden and anger me that we still have to fight on a daily basis to prove to people that we aren’t a burden on society and that we are capable of working and living independently. Disability rights have come so far, and yet we still have such a long way to go regarding understanding, genuine acceptance.

Of course, there will be people out there who, for whatever reasons won’t be able to work. There will also be people who will be idiots and think they can abuse the system and get things handed to them on a silver platter because of their disabilities. For those of us who want to and can work, let’s strive to empower and educate others. Let’s keep on fighting until stigma is demolished; small minds are opened, and equality truly means just that, equality and equal access for all.

For now my lovelies I shall love you and leave you. :).

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