Being an RNIB Community Facilitator with a Visual Impairment

Natasha is registered blind and works as an RNIB community facilitator. This involves connecting blind and partially sighted people to their community. 

The employment/study you proved possible…:
I’m a community facilitator at the RNIB and previously I had my own business employing two other people. I dropped out of university because I believe that you don’t need a degree to drive passion. 


Your disability in your own words…:
 

I am registered blind with some useful sight since birth.


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?:

I didn’t give up. If you keep your determination going something good will come up eventually. You should not be defined by your disability: try to smash the stereotype!


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

I’d say that it’s ok to get frustrated and you are allowed to speak out when times are tough. Find out what you are entitled to and fight for it, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. If you do what you love and love what you do you can’t go wrong. 

If you have proved employment or higher education possible despite disability, why not submit to the catalogue. and help others follow by your example?

Being a Senior Supply Chain Manager with a Visual Impairment

“Tiny” is registered blind and manages teams at the leading pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The employment/study you proved possible…: 

I’m a Senior Supply Chain Manager for Pfizer; we are the biggest pharmaceutical company in the world and I am proud to supply medicines that make a real difference to peoples lives. My role is to lead a team of twelve that plan the delivery of our products to patients. I also look after the customer relations team that liases directly with the people that are buying our medicines. These buyers range from national governments to specialist hospitals and care providers.


Your disability in your own words…: 

I have Retinitus Pigmentosa which means I only have light perception. I get about with the help of my faithful guide dog Gunner.


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?:

I have worked with the same organisation for 15 years in roles of increasing responsibility. I have been able to prove what I can do and empower my team to success despite my low visual acuity. I access my PC with JAWS screen reading software and my phone with voiceover.

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

Recognise your value. If, like me,you have a visual impairment you are likely to be a natural problem solver and have resilience and a drive to deliver a result. These are key skills in the workplace, and you should sell your skills and abilities. You are not asking them to take you on as a favour. You are a valuable member of any team.

Studying Special Needs and Inclusion Studies with a Visual Impairment

Lacey is completely blind and is studying Special Needs and Inclusion Studies.

The study you proved possible…: 
I am halfway through an under graduate degree in Special Needs and Inclusion Studies.

Your disability in your own words…: 

I am blind with no light perception. 

What did you need to do in order to make this study possible alongside your disability? What obstacles did you have to negotiate and how?: 

The theory of the degree isn’t challenging from a disability perspective but making the university aware of your disability really helps to make the process of accessing the course run a lot smoother in general. One obstacle for me is applying the degree I am studying into practice. Because my degree involves the potential to work with children or those with challenging behaviour or communication difficulties, I have had to be realistic and make quite clear that I need to get a placement where I can be an effective worker. Other than that, encouraging children to be descriptive when describing a project they are working on or getting a child to spell out a word when reading are useful tips. I am naturally an quietly spoken person so working in small groups where I can get to know the people really helps me to participate, regardless of the situation. Also, using employment/volunteering support really helped me over my uncertainty, because even if they don’t have much knowledge on disability, they can help in talking to organisations which makes the disability excuse a little less plausable if you’ve got the university behind you. . However, selecting a university where the disability and volunteering and academic staff are supportive is the most crucial thing to get right. If you apply for a university and you get the impression that they don’t appear very accommodating, the chances are that they won’t be making your life any easier if you are having a disability related problem. 

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

I could advise a lot of things, like preparing ahead, communicating with lecturers, being organised, but these aren’t always possible and let’s face it… I’m still learning half of what blind and visually impaired students advise.But the most important thing is to be yourself. Ask for help when you need it, and politely refuse offered help when you don’t. Other than that, start the journey with an open mind and be prepared for anything. Also, it is ok to admit that you are still learning and sometimes, an answer to a problem or a way round an accessibility issue is an unknown to you in that exact moment. And most importantly, study something you want to do, not just because it’s something disabled people can do. 

Your education provider.: 

University of Wolverhampton.

Studying Nursing and Being a Carer with Mental Illness and Low Vision

Emma-Louise Little works and studies in Melbourne Australia. She has low vision and various mental illnesses. Below is her entry to Proved Possible:

Social Media Links:@eatwell.feelwell

The employment/study you proved possible…:

I’m in my last semester of Nursing and hope to specialise in Mental Health. I also work part time as a carer in a nursing home.

Your disability in your own words…:

I was born with congenital nystagmus and was classified as legally blind. I am now 20 and deemed as “low vision” but still have various difficulties with my vision on a day to day basis.
I also suffer from various mental illnesses; Anorexia Nervosa, Schizoaffective Disorder (bipolar subtype) and Post traumatic stress disorder. I have been in and out of hospital since the age of 11, and have just recently been discharged from another inpatient stay of 14 weeks in hospital and received TMS and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).

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?:

With university, I am in contact with the Disability support services there. They provide me with additional vision aids, private rooms and extra time for exams as well as enlarged documents which all help a lot. I also always have my computer with me in lectures which have the lecture PowerPoint on it so I can see the notes and what they are talking about etc.
With work, I’m very fortunate to have a very supportive and understanding manager who is very mindful of my disabilities and is flexible with my roster when needed. Sometimes it is hard to come by someone so accepting and lovely, but it is possible!

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

As corny as it sounds, seriously never give up on your dreams and aspirations. Never take “can’t” or “no” for an answer. ANYTHING is possible- it make take having some extra support, having some extra adjustments, but there’s always a way around obstacles.
A motto I live by is: “prove them wrong”. It’s the best, most satisfying feeling in the world. You can do this. x

Your education provider.: Holmesglen Institute. (Melbourne, Australia)

If you are in or have completed higher education or are in or have been in employment, why not contribute to Proved Possible?

Being a Commissioning Support Officer with a Visual Impairment

Meg is registered blind with no vision and works as a commissioning support officer for her county council.

 The employment/study you proved possible…: Commissioning Support Officer for a County Council

Your disability in your own words…: I’m registered blind and have no vision.
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?:

I work as a Commissioning Support Officer for a local council. My area is in physical disability and sensory impairment which means looking at how the council spends money on people with disabilities. It’s interesting work as it involves listening to the voices of people with disabilities, carers and professionals and then working to ensure that these voices are heard by the people that matter.

In terms of looking for employment, you have to be adaptable, resourceful and resilient. Many people with disabilities have different opinions about how and when to disclose your impairment. I personally don’t mention it until I’ve been offered an interview which means making sure that there is no reference to my disability on my cv. I then ask about the interview process rather than immediately plunging in to ask about adjustments. During the interview itself, it is useful to volunteer your work arounds and solutions you use to complete tasks. Make a point of emphasising how adaptable that makes you as a person. Adaptability is a skill most employers look for. I found that unsuccessful interviews and applications help you build up a portfolio of experience that serves you well when applying for future jobs. I had an interview where I was purely asked questions about my guide dog. I answered them all well but neither the dog or I got the job! Life isn’t a textbook and we become stronger people for it.

When I left school, I decided to take a gap year. I had enjoyed the German exchange I participated in through my German A Level – in fact, I loved it so much that I decided I wanted to live there! I arranged an appointment with the Headmaster of the German partner school and told him about my wish to teach English. He was kind enough to agree that this was a good idea; not only that, but he arranged a flat for me to live in during my year abroad. He also found me a mentor and agreed to pay me a small wage each month. That year was one of the best in my life and I found teaching English as a foreign language to be incredibly rewarding. I’m a big advocator for gap years. Providing you have a plan of what you want to do, they are a great idea. It’s a way for you to develop character-building experiences before job hunting or going back into education. If you want to take a year out, my advice is to research it, plan it,, and work to make it happen!

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

Consider a favourite quote of mine:

‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself only, what am I? If not now, when?’

Studying Creative Writing with a Visual Impairement

Meg is registered blind with no vision and she has a BA in Creative Writing

The employment/study you proved possible…:  

BA Hons Creative Writing

Your disability in your own words…: 

I’m registered blind and have no vision.

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?:
When studying for a degree, it’s important to be as proactive as possible. You have to be well organised and plan things as far in advance as you can. Ideally, getting your reading list a year in advance is a big help. I originally came to university to study a Joint Honours Psychology degree but had to drop the Psychology part of the course because the institution could not make it accessible to me. I often received support from people who had little knowledge of visual impairment. When I became a guide dog owner, the university originally told me that I would not be able to attend lectures with my dog and would have private tutorials instead of going to the lectures. From these experiences, I learnt that it’s important to build up a network of who you can ask for help and when, even if this means relying on people outside of the institution. You learn for yourself when to make a fuss about something and when to take a step back and move on. Reaching your graduation day is the best feeling because you can look back and realise how much you’ve achieved.

What advice would you give to someone just starting this journey?: 
Consider a favourite quote of mine:

‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself only, what am I? If not now, when?’

You can follow Meg’s journey on her blog.

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

Being a Retail Assistant with a Visual Impairment

Josh is registered blind and worked as a retail assistant at a leading chain of stores.

The employment/study you proved possible…: Retail Assistant at M&S

Your disability in your own words…:

As Comedian Adam Hills would say, I’m a visually impaired mutant (registered blind).

I, like former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, am totally blind in my left eye however the sight in my right eye, though enough for me to get around independently, isn’t the best functionally.

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?:

I just needed time.

Like most sighted folk, I needed a little bit of time to get my bearings and learn new routes in and around the store.

But I also needed a bit more time than most to get to grips with the till. My nose had to practically touch the screen for me to be able to read it which was neither productive nor hygienic. Thankfully I could see the buttons, so all I needed to do was memorise exactly what each button did and I could work as quickly as my colleagues.

Luckily my employers were patient and my colleagues were always there to help when my eyes gave up every now and then.

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

If I could give advice to my past self, it’d be to swallow my pride and get help a lot sooner than I did.

Getting a job is far from easy, especially when you have a disability. You have to prove to an employer that not only can you do as good a job as an able bodied/fully sighted person, but you can actually do it 10x better.

As someone who struggles to promote myself, I found job applications extremely difficult. But it took me almost a year to admit that to myself and get help. I got in touch with the Princes Touch and within a couple of months, I was in paid employment and had 4 weeks of work experience under my belt for good measure.

Links:

The Princes Trust

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