Being a Senior Tuberculosis Consultant with MS.

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.

Being a Teacher and a Wheelchair User

Sarah studied a PGCE at the University of Nottingham and became a lecturer/teacher at the same time as a chronic digestive disorder led to her needing a wheelchair.

The employment/study you proved possible…
I studied a PGCE and I am now a college lecturer / teacher. I was in a wheelchair while at university, on and off for the first several years of my career.

Your disability in your own words…: 
I have a chronic illness which has confined me to a wheelchair for several years. 

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?: 

Having been able-bodied and physically active up until age 22 then suddenly chronically ill and disabled it was a horrific adjustment to make. I had to adjust within my own mind which was hard, and to adjust to people looking at me as though they were wondering whether I was “all there”. There were places I used to go to which were now inaccessible. However generally speaking in academia and the workplace, people were very accommodating and helpful.

To succeed I became more confident and outspoken; I think I was trying to prove to myself and others that I wasn’t on the course / in the job out of pity or positive discrimination, but rather, because I was actually really good at it.

What advice would you give to someone just starting this journey?:

There will be times when you don’t get onto a course, or you don’t get a job. It happens to everybody. The chance of it may be higher because of your disability, but you are quite capable of working, so keep trying and you will succeed. Temporary work is a great “foot in the door” so take every opportunity you can to be employed (actually that’s good advice for anyone, disabled or not).

Also, be realistic. It’s nice to think that anyone with any disability can do anything, but if you’re visually impaired, don’t set your heart on being a lifeguard, and if you’re in a wheelchair, rethink the plans to become a firefighter. There are many great jobs around if you pick wisely.

If you have a disability and have been\are in employment, or have studied at degree level; why not submit to Proved Possible?