Dealing with Disability in the School (Mental vs Physical): Fourth edition of series

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

In this article, my friend and I are going to share our experiences in dealing with both mental and physical disability in the school.

Dealing with physical disability in my life has been interesting and quite a learning experience for my family and I. My educational career has been interesting because I’ve lived and studied in Bermuda and England.

Bermuda deals with disability in schools differently to England. England is more advanced, probably because it is much bigger and there’s more access to resources.

For example, I attended private Nursery and Preschool in Bermuda, because it was hard to find someone to take disabled kids for liability reasons. There are currently no charities dedicated to Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus in Bermuda. ‘Teach Us All!’

From primary school to high school, if you claim disability, I got Paraeducators nowadays known as shadow teachers in Bermuda. In Bermuda, I also got extra exam time, an exam scribe, a separate room and exam invigilator. I experienced the same in England.

During my first year of primary school, my mother visited everyday just to make sure that the school was doing their job. However, the principal threatened to put a restraining order on her, so she stopped.

In England, exam scribes and note takers aren’t expected to know anything about the subjects, they’re just expected to make notes and write exams for the student. This holds the students accountable for their own education and success. Students must choose between extra time or an exam scribe, not both to prevent cheating. These exam scribes and notetakers come from an external agency called Clearlinks. Clearlinks employs them, not the university. Students also get Study Coaches and specialist equipment. Ergonomic Assessments are also required for wheelchair users.

Discrimination

During my educational career, there was one recurring issue that I encountered at every school I attended. This was ‘the right to an education’.

The Human Rights Act protects the right to education within all existing educational institutions. It applies to primary, secondary and higher education. So why did my parents have to fight to make sure I got into mainstream, public education?

Why were there some teachers at the schools that I attended, who refused to teach me simply because they disagreed with my rights to be there?

As someone who has a physical disability, I never understood this. Besides, the Human Rights Act 1981 including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights applies to Bermuda too.

My high school years were quite tricky. In Bermuda, there were two public high schools to choose from. One high school was wheelchair accessible from its inception, whereas the other one wasn’t. I was hoping to attend the wheelchair accessible high school because it was easier to get around, however I went to the alternative high school because even though the one I wanted had easy access, integration was a problem. ‘Teach Us All!’

I felt this was unfair because I was marked down for attendance and my class participation was affected, especially when there was a wheelchair accessible alternative. In relation to specialist equipment, my parents and I invested in a Garaventa Stair Trac from Canada, which was designed to get me up and down staircases. The only staircase it wasn’t compatible with were spiral ones.

Fortunately, after the first year, I transitioned to a newly refurbished and wheelchair accessible building equipped with ramps, lifts and flat surfaces. This made attending classes a lot easier and improved my attendance record and class participation.

However, I went through my second year of high school without a Paraeducator because the school felt that I should be able to cope. My parents and I disagreed with this. Having a Paraeducator made it easier to transition from class to class within five minutes. Having that extra assistance of a Paraeducator also made test taking and note taking more manageable.

Unfortunately, I had to complete summer school that year for failing Maths. Things improved after receiving a new Paraeducator the following year.

After high school, my first year of college was quite stressful and intense. I was enrolled to complete A-Levels. I had just moved from Bermuda to England after graduating from high school. I had to familiarise myself with a new education system and a new environment. The teachers weren’t as understanding or empathetic towards my educational background, learning styles or needs. The A-Level programme was quite competitive where some lecturers only put their best cohort of students up for January and May exams leaving the weaker students out, while other lecturers put a whole class forward and let them ‘wing it’ for the experience.

On this particular course, I felt discriminated against because, unlike the rest of my lecturers, my English Literature didn’t give me a shot at a mock exam in preparation for the real exams. She told me that I wasn’t working at the ‘A-Level standard.’ In response to this, I complained to the Directorate of the college with an unsuccessful outcome.

Mental Health

Alternatively, dealing with mental disability is different. My friend’s biggest problems have been, firstly, depression, which university recognised, but I don’t think most people in general have much idea of the impact of their actions and a lot are incapable of being nice, full stop.

According to the Equality Act 2010, depression is classified as a disability, and anyone with it is covered by the Act (https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/3123/disability-discrimination-2019.pdf). This needs to be reinforced.

Integration in Mainstream School versus Special Education

Even though special education has its place in society, especially for those with severe disabilities, it is better for them to be integrated into the mainstream public education because mainstream qualifications are given more value than special qualifications. Public mainstream colleges and universities recognise mainstream qualifications not special qualifications. Special education may also possibly undermine one’s full potential. ‘Teach Us All!’

For example, I had a Canadian friend in university, who had Asperger’s Syndrome, that went to special school all his life, and had to complete his G.E.D before starting university in England, because his special qualification wasn’t accepted by the university’s standards.

However, when I was in school, I was integrated all throughout my educational career, but two of my subjects like P.E and Maths were modified due to having a physical disability and additional learning difficulties.

Schools are also expected to conduct risks assessments for health and safety reasons. They should also provide a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan in case of any emergencies like fires or flooding. This is what I got during my college and university years.

All schools have some level of a duty of care and can be held responsible for accidents.

I am in full support of integration, but I think the best way to ensure and reinforce this is to provide extensive teacher training. Colleges and Universities in England have Student Councils and Student Unions that include Disability Officers on their teams. Also at the primary school level in Bermuda, there is a PTSA Board. I think PTSA Boards may need to include a special element specifically for disabled students, similar to British colleges and universities’ student unions and councils.

Integration should also include modification not accommodation. When a student has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) you’ll likely hear the word accommodation. An accommodation changes how a student learns the material. A modification changes what a student is taught or expected to learn.

Homeschooling is another viable option which may help decrease discrimination and cater to personal needs.

Wheelchair Accessibility: Functioning in Dysfunction
Wheelchair Accessibility and mobility issues are additional problems that wheelchair users face daily. I experienced this many times in Bermuda, especially at school. Access alleviates the amount of limitations and restrictions on wheelchair users. Failing to ensure wheelchair accessibility is neglecting to provide reasonable adjustments. It is like functioning in dysfunction. Fortunately AccessAdvisr helps to tackle this in England. I still think that people must be mindful.

According to the British Government website, anyone can apply for a dropped kerb in England (https://www.gov.uk/apply-dropped-kerb). However, I get really annoyed with drivers who park across dropped kerbs. Dropped kerbs are meant to make it easy for wheelchairs to enter and exit sidewalks. Some drivers even park on top of the sidewalks blocking the walkway. We need to clamp down on this with a fine both in the UK and Bermuda.

So to conclude, I think reassessing wheelchair accessibility, integration and modifications in mainstream public education are needed to improve the way disability is handled in the schools, especially in Bermuda. Schools must become Disability Confident. This is what I suggest in ‘Dealing with Disability in the School.’

Models of Disability

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

What is Disability?

Over the years, classifying and defining disability has become quite tedious. There are various examples to describe disability.

Disability is seen as a ‘social construct.’ It is the idea that society and its’ institutions have the authority to construct disability around social expectations. In medieval times, disability was constructed around a person’s moral behaviour.

Disability is defined as a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. According to an article I read from meriahnichols.com, ‘dis’ is another way of doing and being. The term disability is an ability to do or be in another way. The term disabled is an ability to do or be something, in another way-https://www.meriahnichols.com/3-reasons-say-disability-instead-special-needs/.

Even though, I’ve only identified three models of disability, according to research there seems to be loads more.

Models of Disability are tools for defining impairment and for providing a basis upon which government and society can devise strategies for meeting the needs of disabled people.

Medical Model of Disability

The medical model describes disability as a consequence of a health condition, disease or caused by a trauma that can disrupt the functioning of a person in a physiological or cognitive way.

This model is a conceptualization of disability as a condition a person has and focuses on the prevention, treatment or curing of the disabling condition.

Functional Model of Disability

This model is similar to the medical model because it conceptualizes disability as an impairment or deficit. Disability is caused by physical, medical or cognitive deficits. The disability itself limits a person’s functioning or the ability to perform functional activities.

Social Model of Disability

The Social Model of Disability includes people’s views, opinions and attitudes. It has been the prominent approach to disability over the last 30+ years.

It was developed by disabled people based on real life experience of discrimination, inclusion and challenging disabling barriers. It is outward looking and focused on the things in society that can be changed or improved, like, the environment, information, communications and people’s attitudes.

It’s a problem solving approach which gives disabled people greater control over vital, even basic decisions, like, from what time to get out of bed on a morning to employability and education choices.

This approach enables you to better understand how reasonable adjustments can be implemented. It also focuses on the things you can influence or change and promotes valued skills.

In conclusion, the purpose behind the models of disability is to highlight the political struggle of disability. It analyzes the ‘problem of disability.’ It also affects policy making, so that we can make positive change in our society for people with disabilities.

Since laws are already created to discriminate against disabled people by default, we need to make sure that the Social Model of Disability is pushed to ensure equality.

For more information on the various models of disability, check out this website: https://www.disabled-world.com/definitions/disability-models.php.

The Purple Pound

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Disabled shoppers now have equality in business called the ‘Purple Pound’. The Purple Pound represents the spending power of the disabled household. A disabled household is a household in which at least one of the members has a disability.

The Purple Pound here in England is equivalent to the Black Dollar in America. This is England’s way of ensuring Inclusive Marketing for the disabled population.

Organisations are missing out on the business of disabled consumers due to poor accessibility (both physical and digital) and not being disability confident in their customer services approach. Out of this came ‘The Purple Shopper’.

The Purple shopper was created to make the disabled person’s shopping experience a personal one, where stores are accessible at their convenience. No more queuing at checkouts, no over bright and loud environments.

Businesses can join this initiative and become a Purple Shopper by signing up on their website at http://www.purpleshopper.co.uk.

The Power of the Purple Pound

In the UK, it is thought that some seven million people of working age have a disability, which all adds up to an awful lot of spending power.

It is reckoned to be worth around £249 billion to the economy.

According to statistics, 75% of disabled people have left a store or website due to inaccessibility. To combat this, ‘Purple Tuesday’ came into effect.

Purple Tuesday 2020 is a change programme for organisations of all sizes from all sectors to get involved in, with the common goal of improving the customer experience for disabled people 365 days a year.

Purple Tuesday is about creating a step change improvement in the awareness of the value and needs of disabled customers. It is about making the customer experience accessible.

Participating organisations will make public commitments (a minimum of one new activity or initiative) to ensure sustainable changes are made. For organisations, this will result in the opening up of products and services to the disability market.

I like these initiatives because they tackle isolation while promoting independence. Bermuda is a Purple Tuesday campaigner which makes me happy: https://bernews.com/2019/11/bermuda-joins-global-purple-tuesday-campaign/. For more information about this go to http://www.purpletuesday.org.uk.

The Purple Vote Campaign

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

The Legacy International Group has launched The Purple Vote Campaign. This group was started by Sara Flay and Leighton Morris who lead a team of 15 people with various disabilities.

The Purple Vote Campaign was launched in February. This campaign was created to raise awareness about what concerns disabled people and how they can represent their constituents and to ensure that the disabled community have a voice in the democratic process which includes encouraging disabled people to vote in public committees and groups as well as communicating with their local assembly members and MPs. Purple is the colour of disability.

Elections are being held next year. This should see more disabled people in Parliament. This campaign endorses more inclusion in Politics. Welsh Government and Parliament want to champion disability inclusion. It’s about making politics accessible and influencing policy.

They also encourage people to pursue Access to Work. Hopefully this will expand to local and central government positions.

I like and approve of this initiative because it will cause society to reimagine law enforcement and legislation. This will also test how well MPs understand disability. For more information log on to http://www.legacyig.org.

‘ACCESS CONSULTANCY’

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

Access consultants provide professional advice on how to develop inclusive environments in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. They help to reinforce this law.

Wheelchair accessibility and mobility issues are just some of the problems that access consultants look at and try to solve. Businesses are required by the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to allow anyone to use a building or a facility, including those who, to pick just one example use wheelchairs.

A prime example of what access consultants do is Access Rating.

WHAT IS ACCESS RATING?

Access Rating is an idea established by and for the community of disabled people based in the UK.  Inclusion is the concept. Nowadays, there is an app for it too. This app helps access consultants do their job efficiently: it is available for Android and IOS and is called, appropriately, “Access Rating”

This app is the brainchild of Mark Esho, Rich Copson and Jignesh Vaidya. It allows customers and access consultants to critique businesses’ compliance with the access criteria set out in the Equality Act.

Mark Esho and Martyn Sibley recently assessed the disabled community’s opinion of the app during The Daily Sib Show via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxtiRAMiSSA

This app shows to business owners and operators that the disabled community can add value to their business: most businesspersons do not see the physically impaired as customers – but they spend money and contribute to the economy just like anyone else. Neglecting wheelchair accessibility is also a good example of bad customer service.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  • you can submit a review in 30 seconds
  • upvote and downvote reviews
  • over 240,000 venues are included
  • you can suggest new venues to add

BENEFITS OF THIS APP

  • Free to download and use
  • broad scope of wheelchair accessible venues in the UK
  • makes event planning easy
  • accurate
  • plans to make it international

It works as a digital travel directory for the physically challenged. This app also exposes discrimination and promotes inclusion. It revolutionises the way wheelchair users socialise and is extremely useful for access consultants in their research. For more information, feel free to browse the website at https://www.accessrating.com/app/, or email them at info@accessrating.com.

Dealing with Disability on the Job: First edition of series

By: Daniella Jade Lowe

This is the first segment of my article series ‘Dealing with Disability’. In this article, I will cover Dealing with Disability on the Job, using examples from my personal experiences.

Lived Experience

How does one handle disability in the workplace?

While living in Bermuda, I’ve had sporadic summer jobs and work experience. One paid job was working as a Junior Counselor at an inclusive Summer camp for disabled and non-disabled children.

Another paid summer job included representing Bermuda at the London 2012 Paralympic Games as a reporter. That was fun and unforgettable.

However, after graduating from university in 2017, my real career development and job searching began. My personal experience with job searching has been very tough.

Job hunting can be quite frustrating for the disabled community. We have special skill sets based on level of ability.

The problem is, we need a job to get work experience, and we need work experience to get a job. Going from interview to interview without any success can be quite discouraging.

Nowadays, there are an increasing number of disabled people starting businesses because the job searching and interview process is proving to be difficult.

If you desire to apply for benefits, you must be eligible for it. Before one is eligible, they must have a financial assessment. The unemployed who are actively seeking work can apply for the Jobseekers’ Allowance which is paid into their bank accounts from their local Jobcentre, fortnightly.

There is also the Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit that one can apply for.

Business owners are entitled to the Income Support Scheme. All of this is provided at the local Jobcentre Plus through the Department of Works and Pensions.

Purple Tuesday is an accessibility initiative for businesses and I am proud to know that Bermuda has joined this community. This initiative promotes inclusive marketing for the disabled shopper.(www.purpletuesday.org.uk)

All employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments, especially for wheelchair users. They’re also expected to conduct risks assessments for health and safety reasons. They should also provide a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan in case of any emergencies like fires or flooding.

From personal experience, I know that, the Park Place Jobcentre in Leeds, England, definitely prioritises and values the disabled community because they take precautionary measures first.

For example, during a placement that I completed under the Department of Works and Pensions at the Park Place Jobcentre, I had to complete a risk assessment for them to make reasonable adjustments in order for me to start the placement. This included checking the accessibility of escape routes for fire drills.

All employers have some level of a duty of care and can be held liable for accidents.

Employers must look at job design. Job design should play to people’s strengths. Talents and skills are important.

Employers should not give disabled people jobs out of sympathy. Problem solving skills make disabled people good candidates because they always have to overcome barriers which could make one employable.

Inclusive Workplaces

Channel 4 is a Disability Confident employer and they judge job applicants on their abilities against job descriptions. They try their best to recruit from groups in society that are underrepresented.

Job Agencies for the disabled include Remploy, Evenbreak and Scope. Remploy helps get our disabled community into cleaning jobs unless they have alternative career goals.

There’s a consultation agency called Inclusive Employers which also does this. Inclusive Employers is an organisation created to help employers develop an inclusive workplace, avoid the pitfalls of discrimination and get more from their workforce.

Inclusive Employers provides knowledge and networks to help build workplaces where people feel valued, and can add value. Their employer members are committed to creating an inclusive workplace, maximising the potential of all employees. They strive to lead the way in breaking barriers and building success.

Delsion Ltd. is another inclusive employer known as the People & Development Consultancy. They’re the award winning specialists in Learning & Development, Diversity & Inclusion and all things that help people and organisations reach their true potential.

Why should organisations employ disabled people? Why not? Political correctness is the enemy of inclusion. Political correctness is the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

The alternative is working from home but it doesn’t necessarily promote inclusion or diversity neither does it clamp down on discrimination.

Another interesting aspect is blind interviews vs physical interviews. Blind interviews are better than physical interviews because candidates are judged on skills not memory or tests.

Using technology and specialist equipment can make workplaces more inclusive for people with disabilities too.

Wheelchair Accessibility and mobility issues are just some of the problems that wheelchair users and the physically challenged face daily. Access alleviates the amount of limitations and restrictions on wheelchair users. Failing to ensure wheelchair accessibility is neglecting to provide reasonable adjustments. It is like functioning in dysfunction.

According to the British Government, the British can apply for dropped kerbs. However, I get really annoyed with drivers who park across dropped kerbs. Dropped kerbs are meant to make it easy for wheelchairs to enter and exit sidewalks. The Government needs to clamp down on these drivers with a fine. The same should happen in Bermuda.

AccessAdvisr helps to monitor wheelchair access. Disabled people going places. AccessAdvisr Board members are Rob Trent and Martyn Sibley.(https://accessadvisr.net)

The AccessAdvisr website allows disabled people to rate and find first-hand accessibility information. Photographs can also be uploaded alongside reviews. This helps to tackle wheelchair accessibility issues. It also encourages accountability and inclusion.

So, in ‘Dealing with Disability on the Job’, we must work towards inclusion, equality and diversity in the workplace by creating inclusion in the workplace, and inclusive workplaces. This could possibly help to improve the economy on a global scale. All jobs should be Disability Confident. I think Bermuda should also adopt this scheme to work on a better future for Bermudians.

“Sammy Sets the Record Straight”

Sammy is Awesome.

He may not have the use of his legs, but he can do amazing things.

Sammy is Strong.

Sammy is Fast.

Sammy is Awesome.

What is so Awesome about Sammy?

Well, Sammy is a short, black, 5 year old boy Para-superhero.

He had a ready smile that would light up any room.

When he giggled, it was contagious and you couldn’t help but giggle with him, even if you didn’t know what he was giggling about!

One thing everyone knew about Sammy, you couldn’t be around him for too long before, you too, had a smile on your face. That is just how he was, “Smiling little Sammy”.

Super Sammy loved to have fun and explore, just like any other 5 year old. He loved to laugh and when he was in the company of people he loved, you would hear shrieks of laughter and when curiosity got the better of you, you would find that Sammy was smack bang in the centre of it all.

It was during one such family occasion with his two friends Jamar and Johnny, when everyone was laughing and having fun, that Sammy made an amazing discovery. He realised that he had something that was a bit out of the ordinary. Nobody had told him about his self-discovery, and he kept it a secret.

Sammy loved to be of help to others, but not only that, he found himself dreaming about helping others. He dreamt he had an extra special ability to help others, but never imagined, for one moment, that it was a power that was to be used in reality.

This dream happened regularly and would often occur just before he awoke from his sleep. He would dream that he was helping people who were in need in different types of ways.

In his dream, Sammy was doing all sorts of things that he was unable to do in real life. Sammy was in a wheelchair and had little use of his legs but, in this dream, his legs were not bound. He was not in a wheelchair. There was nothing he couldn’t do. The disability became invisible. He would think about these dreams often, wondering what they meant, as they happened a lot.

In this dream, he had been given super powers. These super powers aren’t genetic or hereditary. They help him to fight off bullies. He could also fly in his dreams, which meant that he has the ability to rise above his problems in reality.

As a disabled superhero, Sammy has grown to dislike bullying. He also doesn’t like the drama that comes with it. As a victim, he has been called all sorts of names like, ‘chocolate-cripple’.

‘See me first, not my wheelchair,’ he cried.

He even has advocates and tactics to help him overcome them. These advocates include Johnny, who has been teased because of his race, and Jamar has been bullied because of his hair. They eventually formed an anti-bullying gang alongside Sammy. He also wears blue to help ‘stand against’ bullying, in support of anti-bullying day.

Johnny and Jamar, helped Sammy come up with five solutions to overcome bullying. Johnny and Jamar were Sammy’s sidekicks.

These tactics include speaking to a caring teacher, trusted adult, parent, calling a helpline or get a personal emergency alarm. Johnny and Jamar teach Sammy that bullies are not born bullies. Bullying is learned behaviour.

So Sammy tried to get to know his bullies and understand why they behave the way they do. Once the bullies realised the error of their ways, Sammy and the bullies worked together to remove the negativity.

Johnny and Jamar also taught Sammy what to do if conflict doesn’t stop.

Conflict 101

  • Have the right attitude.
  • Speak up for yourself.
  • Be direct- Don’t let people boss you around.
  • Pick your fights.

Even today, Sammy continues to use the superpowers from his dreams and uses them in reality to help others.

I CAN, I WILL PROGRAMME

For the past month, I’ve been enrolled on a disability empowerment programme called the ‘I CAN, I WILL PROGRAMME’. This programme was structured to help me:

  • Scale new mountains!
  • Develop self-confidence
  • Focus on the things you can change
  • Enable me to plan for a more fulfilling and active lifestyle, and work potential
  • Support me to be more resilient and to cope with setbacks

I had 90 minute workshops each week for 3 weeks:

  1. Session 1- “Doing what’s normal”
  2. Session 2- “Developing my resilience and self-confidence”
  3. Session 3- “Looking at work”
  4. 1 to 1 Empowerment Coaching Support

In the first session, I’ve learned that our experience of living with disability is formative and character building. Disability is always represented by a wheelchair, when only 1.5% of the world are wheelchair users. We also discussed the difference between mindset vs skillset. Mindset is predetermined whereas skillset can be obtained.

Then we talked about the different models of disability. The Social Model of Disability includes people’s views, opinions and attitudes. It has been the prominent approach to disability over the last 30+ years. It was developed by disabled people based on real life experience of discrimination and inclusion and challenging disabling barriers. It is outward looking and focused on the things in society that can be changed or improved, like, the environment, information, communications and people’s attitudes. It’s a problem solving approach which gives disabled people greater control over vital, even basic decisions, like, from what time to get out of bed on a morning to employability and education choices.

This approach enables you to better understand how reasonable adjustments can be implemented, focuses on the things you can influence or change and promotes valued skills.

The Individual Model of Disability is the medical aspect of disability. I also looked at, ‘what makes me ‘stand out’. The qualities that make me stand out are that I’m a good communicator, guidance and resilience.

During the second session, we talked about developing resilience and self confidence. Other subjects included were, daily strategies for enhancing resilience and optimism.

Then we took a SWOT assessment. During this assessment we looked at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

We also discussed Google Mapping. In order to carry this out successfully, one must put their postal code on Google Maps. Then draw an inch to the set scale 2 miles and print. Then put the saucer onto draw round from your house. Finally, plot every business within radius to you. We also briefly discussed ‘Elevator Pitching’. Elevator Pitching is promoting your unique selling point. This method is used for CVs and Cover Letters.

The course facilitator, Simon Cox, also suggested that Video CVs may be the best way to showcase a disabled jobseeker’s skills, qualities and work experience because in some cases, employers may only skim read or check the beginning of a CV, not the whole thing. Video CVs may help disabled candidates to stand a better chance at the application/ interview stage.

In the third session, we talked about developing our ‘elevator pitch’ in five easy steps.

  1. Figure out what is unique about what you do.
  2. Make it exciting.
  3. Keep it simple.
  4. Write it down.
  5. Practice, practice, then practice some more.

In the job application process:

  1. Be familiar
  2. Work your network
  3. Hone your pitch- Remember some 70% of jobs don’t go to advert but are filled through networks and word of mouth recommendations.

In order to plan to move forward:

  • Read and highlight the information you like.
  • Keep learning and improving but be clear and focused on what.
  • Work on your goals and plans.
  • Share your goals and plans with others, especially the people close to you, those who can support you.
  • Engage your Work Coach in your plans, they can help.
  • No excuses|No procrastination|DO IT!

“Do the productive and creative things you love to do- it is more likely to get done!”

-Simon Cox

We also looked at the subject of having a disability/health condition and finding work.

How to apply ways that can support you in making a faster way to work and how to manage your disability or health condition better include the following:

Get the doctor on your side

  • Clarify and confirm a diagnosis. Be sure to get a full and understandable diagnosis for your condition.
  • Ask questions to explore treatment options and what would be right for you. Write down your questions and take them with you.
  • What further information do you need- specialist services, self help groups.
  • What exercise and stretching does your GP recommend you do?
  • Have you reviewed the best medications to support you?
  • Ensure you have a personal treatment plan.

The right work is good for you

  • Have you shared with your Work Coach what you have done in the past and what you are good at?
  • How does your daily and weekly routine’s inform and shape what you can do to return to work or just get more active?
  • Think widely about the kinds of work you can do now or in the future. When your personal health situation changes, then so too might your work goals and abilities but remember to think how you can use your knowledge and skills in different ways.
  • Keep up to date on your area of work/interests or sector use contacts, news and specialist journals.

Effective condition self-management and control

  • Remember you are the expert on your health or disability.
  • Your Work Coach can support you towards, or into work or help you improve your quality of life helping you to get more active.
  • Why not make a plan of the things in life you want to improve or do better? Maybe it’s what you choose to eat, how you exercise your daily routine and activities and how you manage your available time.
  • A plan will give you a focus and purpose with some clear goals.
  • Seeing yourself achieve and progress your plan will make you more confident and feel good about yourself.
  • Discuss with your Work Coach what you think you need to help you keep moving forward.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.”

Yogi Berry

Support for improving mental health

  • Firstly, it’s very common to feel down and worried about things when you are also experiencing other health challenges.
  • By discussing your mental health with your GP or a specialist adviser or counsellor you can get the right support to help you manage your situation.
  • Ask about counselling or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and if they would help you?

Physical activity-exercise and stretching

  • By getting more active not only will you feel better about yourself, it will also help you to improve your health and feel better.
  • Start with gentle exercise and build it up such as a walk in the park, cycling or dancing. Be aware of your limitations, so don’t over do it.
  • Cardio-vascular exercise- Your heart pumping and a little out of breath- is known to be good for your physical and mental health.

Ergonomic Solutions-adjusting the way work is done

  • Technological advances mean almost all jobs and how they are done has changed.
  • Research the way jobs are done and how you might do it with your disability, condition or limitations.
  • An employer has a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to a job if due to a disability you experience a disadvantage. This means looking at how the job might be done differently to accommodate your needs as with equipment, aids, adaptations or changes to processes or procedures.
  • With the right adjustments disabled people are productive and effective employees.
  • Explore ‘Access to Work’ for help that’s available.

Another topic we discussed are the core employment skills for success which are:

  • BASIC SKILLS
  • PERSONAL SKILLS
  • JOB ATTAINMENT

At the end of the programme, I had a one to one interview with course facilitator Simon Cox. During the interview, we discussed my future career plans and goals. Even though I have a degree in History and Politics, I’ve decided to explore Accessibility Consultancy as a career option. I’ve carried out some research on the career field and gained some contacts as well. I’m looking at doing a qualification for it in order to gain more knowledge experience.

This course has really helped me focus on my career and get organised in planning for my future. I am happy that I completed it. As a disabled jobseeker, I would really recommend this course to other disabled jobseekers who are trying to start or change careers.

Mythbusters!!!

“Myths and Misconceptions

People make silly assumptions about people with disabilities. Many people form preconceived ideas about the disabled community at large. From personal experience, here are just a few: MYTH 1. DISABILITY IS A DEVASTATING PERSONAL TRAGEDY WITH NO CURE.
  • The Truth- The lives of disabled people are not tragic. The solution to disability is to remove the environmental and attitudinal barriers which are the real causes of the disabling process.
MYTH 2. SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION IS LESS INTELLIGENT.
  • The Truth- There is no connection between mental health and intellectual ability. A quarter of people in the UK will have a mental health condition at some time in their lifetime regardless of their IQ score.
MYTH 3. BLIND PEOPLE ACQUIRE A SIXTH SENSE.
  • The Truth- Other senses may be used to gain accurate information but there is no such thing as a sixth sense.
MYTH 4. CHILDREN SHOULD NOT ASK PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR DISABILITIES.
  • The Truth- Some adults find the natural, uninhibited curiosity of children embarrassing. Reprimanding children for asking questions may cause them to think there is something ‘bad’ about disability. Most disabled people will not mind answering a child’s question.
MYTH 5. DISABILITY AND ILLNESS ARE INTERRELATED.
  • The Truth- Disabled people are not necessarily sick but are subject to the same illnesses as any other person.
MYTH 6. DISABLED PEOPLE ALWAYS NEED HELP AND MAY BE DEPENDENT.
  • The Truth- Being physically unable to do something does not cause dependency-not being able to drive is solved by using the services of a bus or train company. Disabled people may require different services and it is only when choice over those services is removed that dependency occurs.
MYTH 7. MOST DISABLED PEOPLE ARE UNABLE TO HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS.
  • The Truth- People with disabilities, like other people, are sexual beings. They can have relationships and children.
MYTH 8. DISABLED PEOPLE ARE BRAVE AND COURAGEOUS.
  • The Truth- The experience of disability requires an adaptation of lifestyle rather than bravery and courage. It should be viewed, in many ways, as similar to any other significant life event.
MYTH 9. WHEELCHAIR USE IS CONFINING- USERS ARE LITERALLY ‘BOUND’.
  • The Truth- A wheelchair, like a shoe or a car, is a mobility aid that enables a person to get around. Wheelchair users are restricted by an environment that has been designed for able-bodied living.
MYTH 10. THE EXPECTATIONS OF DISABLED PEOPLE DIFFER FROM OTHERS.
  • The Truth- Disabled people go to school, work, form relationships, do their laundry, eat, get angry, pay taxes, laugh, have prejudices, vote, plan and dream like anyone else.
So now that I’ve exposed these myths, this article should bring awareness and end the stigma of disablism and ableism.