Working with a disability … find your path

As a disabled person of working age trying to find work that fits my personality, likes and passions can be difficult.

I am an individual with a ‘severe visual impairment’ that loves working with people. I am not someone that could sit down in a nine to five job behind a computer all day or in any generalised office job. For some people with a visual impairment that may be fine but that’s based more on their personalities and work preferences rather than being connected to their visual impairment.

Over the past three years I have worked in a school/nursery environment. I loved working with children as no two days were the same. A dynamic environment is an exciting one. That’s what I want from my work life. However, over the past three years one thing has stopped me from progressing.

My sight has lead me two leave two jobs in an SEN school for children with Learning Disabilities and a mainstream nursery. The reason behind my departure from both places is my sight. Safeguarding is such a hot topic in this day and age. The specific issues that I faces was potentially giving children the wrong food, personal care (changing nappies) and being able to keep eyes on children in the playground.

These are all valid points and logically I can understand why measures had to be taken. However, emotionally I’m frustrated. Never did I give children the wrong food, yes I may have looked slightly closer when changing children but I never harmed them and my sight had no major impact on my ability to change a child. In terms of supporting children in the playground that point is the most understandable of all. My distance vision isn’t great and for that reason I can understand that I may not be able to see something happening as quickly as other members of staff.

As a result of my vision I had to take a demotion in my last job which lead to my mental health suffering. I had to do menial and routine tasks such as cleaning and general tidying. This is an important part of keeping a nursery running but it wasn’t what I went there to do. I wanted to work with the children directly and the job that I ended up doing meant I had very limited interactions with the children.

Now I want to state that I am in no way trying to undermine the nursery that I worked for at all and for privacy reasons I won’t name them. It is simply due to my sight in relation to current safeguarding legislations that I found myself in the situation that I did.

However, I won’t lie. For a while I did blame the management at the nursery and became very resentful, jealous of others and felt my general mental health slipping. I simply couldn’t do what I wanted and I didn’t want to accept the facts exactly for what they were at the time.

The simple fact of the matter is that if you have a disability of any sort, doing a caring role such as working directly with children in a school or nursery environment your disability will inevitably throw up issues that will either be easy or difficult to overcome.

Unfortunately we live in such an age where disability does affect societies views of your capabilities to perform a caring job such as an early years practitioner or teaching assistant or nurse. We live in a society that is geared for able bodied people and working life is set to accommodate able bodied people.

From the standpoint of someone with a visual impairment and being a caring individual who wants to work with people I think there is still a stigma that, as a community, we can’t possibly look after or be in charge of other people because we find it harder to take care of ourselves independently. That is simply not the case at all.

I agree that there may be tasks that are more challenging but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways of working within a team environment to work around that so that we can work within our capabilities and work with our own strengths.

Just because we have a disability does not make us incapable or being a useful part of society that contributes towards making society and the economy a better place.

One positive thing that has come out of this for me is that I am taking some time out for myself I am focusing on improving my violin skills and going to teakwando anywhere between 3 and 6 times a week. I also have a new prospective on career options. I know I want to work with people still and I want to help people.

As I have struggled with mental health issues in the past I want to focus my attentions on one day becoming a counsellor and maybe investigating child services or disability services. Having both a disability and mental health issues myself and having a liking for working with children gives me options and becoming a counsellor would give me more career progression options.

It’s all about knowing what you want to do and finding a way to get there. There’s always going to be bumps along the way. Life is never straight forward and likes to throw us curve balls. It’s about accepting that and taking every opportunity to learn something about yourself from the situation that you find yourself in and taking that forward to improve and progress yourself.

I have accepted that working in the nursing or school background may not be an ideal option for me but I know that I want to help people so knowing that I have to look into and investigate other options where my eyesight won’t be such a major concern or hurdle.

Be true to yourself and never forget that when one path comes to an end you have the opportunity to create a new one that is unique to you and will get you the furthest in life.


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