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?

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?