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?