Employers missing out

Disabled people offer some valuable benefits
to employers – such as motivation, writes Lucy Butcher.

I read recently about a survey where three out
of four employers claim that the opportunity has never arisen to
employ a disabled person.1 As someone who is disabled
and loves my job, I find this very sad.

I wonder how many of these employers realise
why disabled people aren’t coming forward to apply for jobs.
Applying for a job can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, but
when you’re disabled it can be so much harder.

Nobody wants to set themselves up to
experience rejection. Knowing – as I did – that an employer is
prepared to make the essential adjustments you need in the
workplace can make all the difference to your decision about
whether to apply.

I was 23 and training to be a fitness
instructor when I was involved in a car crash that changed my life.
I was left with a twisted pelvis, damage to my neck and spine and
the loss of sight in one eye. With my career plans dashed, I hit an
all-time low. However, I saw an advert for volunteers for NCH’s
appropriate adults scheme, to support young people being detained
at police stations. Something inside me responded to that. I was
petrified about the interview but my worries were misplaced,
everyone was so kind.

They let me take it slowly – but I’d found
something I really enjoyed and got a huge amount of satisfaction
from. These kids didn’t care that I was on crutches and didn’t see
me as disabled. After a while I started training other volunteers
and I got involved in NCH’s independent visitor scheme. Then a job
vacancy came up for a project worker for the two schemes. I felt I
had as much chance as anyone else but I was so nervous I copied the
application 10 times before I submitted it! It really helped that I
knew I’d be treated fairly along with the other candidates.

The competition for the job was very stiff and
I was thrilled when I got the job – but also quite worried. I knew
NCH really wanted to help me succeed but I was anxious about the
things like them monitoring me for the first six months. You get
very defensive and think people are picking up on things you can’t
do, but my manager explained that they really wanted to support me
and the monitoring was to see how they could do this. They’ve been
absolutely brilliant. They’ve worked closely with my disability
adviser and adapted the office with money from the Disability
Employment Agency. They’ve made lots of adjustments for me but in
return I give back my very best. Even on a day when I’m in a lot of
pain I still don’t want to go home. I just love the work and feel
we’re providing such a valuable service.

I wish more employers would see things like
this. I know there are plenty of disabled people like me who have a
lot to give and if someone will just provide that opportunity we’ll
grab it! It’s a win-win situation for employer and employee.

Lucy Butcher works for NCH’s
appropriate adults and independent visitor scheme in Swanwick,

1 Research released by
Jobability.com, a job web site for disabled people

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