Why we work: being disabled and employed
Some people may think that disability and employment don’t go in the same sentence. But in this blog I have interviewed a number of disabled workers who I hope will change people’s views.
Research from the Scottish Government says that: “Disabled people are 20% of the population but make up only 11% of the private sector workforce and 11.7% of the public sector workforce." Which is quite poor in 2018 especially when everyone tries to be included, especially disabled people. But there are a lot of disabled people out there who work and love working.
I am 26 and have cerebral palsy. I am in a wheelchair and communicate through a communication device. I don’t let my CP get in my way, so I work which I love. I am a Communications Assistant at Bobath Scotland where I started out as volunteer and then I got an internship for 3 months through Inclusion Scotland. But luckily enough Bobath got funding from Community Jobs Scotland to keep me on as an employee, which is fantastic. As I said before, I don’t let my cerebral palsy stop me, but I need to have two carers to support me to get to and from work and who also support me during the day at work, which is funded by social work. Last year, social work tried to change my carers around and they asked me what do I get out of working, making it out, if I am disabled then I shouldn’t be working, but lucky enough me and my fantastic Mum and Dad got it through to them how important my job is and they kept my carers as they were. Why do I want to work? Well, why not? Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean to say that I can’t or shouldn’t be working. I love it that I get up in the morning and know that I am going to work and putting my ability to use.
As a disabled person I am really interested to hear from other disabled people about their own experiences of employment, so I have been in contact with a few people who are happy for me to include their experiences in this blog.
Marion Burns is 34 and lives in Renfrewshire, She has cerebral palsy and currently volunteers with Bobath Scotland. Previously, Marion has been employed as an Advocacy Worker, a job which she said she “loved”. For Marion, work is an important part of her life. She told me, “I love being a working woman, despite my disability, so that I can be part of society – that means a huge deal to me!”
When Marion was an Advocacy Worker, she enjoyed supporting other people. She said, “When I worked as an Advocacy Worker, I used to be a voice for people who were disabled or had other health problems, helping them from house issues to care issues. Once, I got a lot of money back for someone.”
But, she also found it difficult to get a job in the first place and felt that she didn’t get the help she needed. “It was quite hard to find something, especially when I found no support from the Job Centre. I was lucky enough in that I knew about Advocacy, and thought that I will give it a try”
Andrew Tomlinson is 35 living in Glasgow. He has cerebral palsy and works at Penilee Credit Union as a Financial Admin Assistant.
Andrew was unemployed for two years but he wasn’t about to give up looking for work. He started as a volunteer in Glasgow South West Regeneration Agency in the accounts department before he got his paid job.
But Andrew thinks that it was more difficult to find employment because of his disability, and he thinks there's steps that can be made to make it easier. He thinks the Government has taken backwards steps with access to work and that better public transport infrastructure would help everyone. And he added, “We need to work as a community of equals - both able bodied and those impairments working together to create pathways in the future”.
Andrew points out that, “Everyone wants to work I think. It’s about community working together for a common goal. It’s important socially and it’s important for creating relationships. I think employment is great in creating a sense of achievement, of adding value to society and the economy building for tomorrow. It’s also better than watching Jeremy Kyle”.
Elaine Boyd is 48 and lives in Glasgow. Elaine works as an Associate Director of Audit Quality at Audit Scotland.
Elaine was lucky enough that she got her job without any problems but she notes that she is very aware that this isn’t the case for everyone who is disabled.
Elaine adds that, “It is important for me to work and have self-worth and contribute to my family’s income to enable us to enjoy life. I also like to think I can be a good role model for disabled people in demonstrating my ability to work”.
Michael McEwan is 34 and lives in Glasgow. Michael has cerebral palsy and leads a busy working life, including being a freelance journalist and working as the Chair of East Renfrewshire Disability Action.
Michael notes that it was quite difficult for him to get a job because of his disability but added that, “but I feel that my Disability should not stop me in any way and it should not be any more difficult.”
Michael likes working because it gives him a chance to make new pals and to get more confident at his job.
From all of the feedback of these four people’s experiences, and my own experiences of employment, it shows that disabled people do want to work, but there might be a few issues for some disabled people such as myself and Marion who want to work but have had to fight for support workers to be able to do so. Or Andrew and Michael who found it difficult to find a job because of their disabilities. So overall, yes there are some issues but we all work around it because we do want to work and we don’t want to let our disabilities get the best of ourselves.
Coming back to my own experience about my social worker asking me what do I get out of working, I really hated that because I could have been like, “Oh well, I have a disability and I don’t need to work, so I am not going to get a job because I am disabled”. But from a young age I always wanted to work and I have worked so hard to get to where I am today, so for someone to question me because I am working was really hurtful for myself and my Mum. Without being cheeky, and I’m sorry if I hurt anyone by saying this, but there are a lot of people out there who have nothing wrong with them and don’t want to work, but there are people like myself who are disabled and do want to work.
I am very proud of myself for getting a job and I can honestly say I do love my job. There are some days when I don’t want to get up and go to work like everyone does, but overall I am very proud to have a disability and to be able to work. I hope this blog has shown that disability and employment can and do go together.