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.

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?