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?’

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?