I developed repetitive strain injury a few years ago, a condition which affects my arms and my hands. My employer did try to make adjustments – things like speech recognition software and an adapted keyboard – but it got to a point where being on a computer even for 20 minutes caused so much pain. So, I made the decision to change career.
I didn’t think finding another job would be too difficult. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do lots of computer work, but I had so many transferable skills. But after 15 months of applying for jobs with no response, I lost hope. It got to the point where I was just applying for anything. It didn’t matter what it was or what the pay was, I was just desperate to work. But I still couldn’t find someone to employ me.
It was probably the lowest point of my life
It really knocked my self-worth and my self-confidence. You start to feel like you’re not worthy of being employed despite having a great career history. I felt like all my qualifications had been for nothing.
I felt lost, and when you get to that point, you need someone who can sit down with you and go “Okay, so these are your strengths and these jobs would suit you.” But I couldn’t find anyone willing to help. One agency told me “It’s unfortunate but employers will look at you as a liability.”
Then I got in touch with Scope.
The right support turned my life around
They were really quick to get started. When the employment adviser, Zaid, looked at my CV he said, “Wow, this is brilliant. I’m confident that we can help you.”
The main thing that Support to Work helped me with was my confidence. Because my confidence had taken such a huge knock, I didn’t feel like an employer should employ me. I didn’t think I was worth it. But when Zaid made so many nice comments about my CV and gave me so many ideas for what I could do, I started to believe in myself again.
I think I’d been coming across as negative on applications, but he helped me find the right approach to tell employers about my condition and talk about what I can do with simple adaptations.
With my new-found confidence, I applied for a role as Operations Assistant and I got an interview straight away. The interview went really well and I was offered the job! I felt uplifted. I was so happy. I was smiling for days.
For a long time, I couldn’t see a future but Support to Work really turned my life around.
My advice for employers
I love my job and I feel like my employers have exactly the right attitude. At the interview, I talked about my condition and they said, “You’ve got the skills we’re looking for, it won’t be a problem”. It put me at ease straightaway. I wish all employers thought like that when it came to hiring people.
Once in work, employers should make conversations about adjustments easy. In my current role, I feel confident that I could ask for changes if I needed them. I’ve got an open communication with my manager so if I do have any problems we can find a way to work around it. I also think they should be open to doing things differently. At work, I’m not afraid to say, “Look this is a bit much, can we do it a different way?”
Another piece of advice is to take advantage of schemes like Access to Work, which paid for my adaptive equipment – things like dictation software and an adapted keyboard – it hasn’t cost my employer anything and it enables me to do my job well.
Ultimately, I want employers to look beyond someone’s impairment or condition and focus on the skills and experience that they would bring to the role. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t mean they won’t be an asset for your organisation.
Support to Work is funded by Virgin Media as part of a three year partnership with Scope to understand and tackle the issues disabled people face getting into and staying in work.
The ambition is to reach one million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020, so they can get into work, stay in work and realise their career ambitions.
If you’re a disabled job seeker, you can sign up to Support to Work on Scope’s website.