Coping With My Career and a Disability: A Case Study
Alex, 42, has been in a wheelchair since he was 7. He says that most of his experiences at work have been good, although some companies still have a long way to go.
“I have been in wheelchair for most of my life and attended a mainstream school so I have never thought of myself as different or even disabled. Yes, some things are a little harder for me, but with a little bit of thought and some adaptations I can manage to do most things an able-bodied person could.
“When I left school I started working in IT. My first employer was very forward thinking for the time and made a great effort to make sure that all my needs were met and that I wasn’t treated any differently from any other employee. I am very glad that they were my first experience of the workplace as it allowed me to see what is possible.”
Bad experiences“When I was in my late 20s I was looking for a bit of a change and got a job as a IT training manager in a small company. As soon as I started though, I realised that it was a mistake. I think they took me on because they needed to show they had filled their quota of disabled people rather than actually wanting me there.
“Nothing was set up conveniently for me and it was a constant challenge to get things changed. I also found myself excluded from certain meetings because access for the wheelchair was impossible and had decisions made over my head. Eventually I took them to an employment tribunal and won, which was a good boost to my confidence."
IgnoranceAlex says that he is happy that discrimination is now taken seriously but people’s attitudes need to change if disabled people are going to be treated equally.
“Apart from that one company I have always been treated well by my employers but you still have to face some ignorance from colleagues. I think all companies need to offer training about dealing with disability and help promote understanding and acceptance in the workplace.
“That is what I do now. I have set up my own company which I never dreamed of when I was younger. Companies all across the country bring me and my team in to run training sessions and it is very satisfying. Attitudes have definitely changed and as the younger generation come into the workplace I think it will only get better.
Advice“No disabled person should ever feel that they have to settle for sub-standard facilities or unfair treatment. If they are capable of doing the job as well as their colleagues then they should be given the same opportunities.
“Legislations have definitely helped but I think that individuals also need to take responsibility for their own treatment. If you feel that you are being discriminated against then don’t be afraid to speak up. Employers must be accountable for their actions and you need to make sure that you are judged by your ability not your disability."