Broaching the issue

Many of you may have read my article (This Life, 4 July) about
my struggle to find employment as someone with a speech impairment
and the discrimination I faced within the disability field.

My perseverance has paid off and I have been offered a job with
a local disabled group as an outreach and advice worker for their
independent living scheme. This is a new post with a remit to
promote direct payments to under-represented groups such as younger
disabled people and people with learning difficulties.

Having been a volunteer for this group I was very much aware of
their positive attitude towards disability and felt this guaranteed
me a fair hearing at the interview. I felt very comfortable raising
the issue of my disability and what support I would require to
enable me to do the job. This developed into a discussion with
members of the interview panel suggesting different types of

Whether to raise the issue of my disability at this stage is
usually a quandary for me and can be quite an uncomfortable
experience. I have the impression people are probably frightened of
saying the wrong thing or can only think of the imaginary problems
of employing disabled people. In the main I feel that it could wait
until you are offered the post but almost feel a duty to raise it
because you can be sure that it will be part of the discussion
after you have gone. So the responsibility of presenting a positive
image of disability lies with the interviewee. It seems unfair that
disabled interviewees are expected to give more at this stage than
their non-disabled peers.

The more progressive disability groups often have a policy of
only employing disabled people. They say that until other employers
give disabled people an equal chance in the employment field, this
is their way of reddressing the balance. Unfortunately, these
organisations are few and far between.

Employers say that the opportunities of employing disabled
people are limited. This may be true as it takes tremendous
resources for someone like me to continue after many rejections,
especially knowing that you can not change what employers are
objecting to. You can only hope that you will find an employer that
sees past your disability and sees the skills and experience you
can bring to their organisation.

Resources are available to those employing disabled people.
Through the access to work scheme, disabled people can receive
equipment and support paid for by the employment service. This can
include specialised equipment, travel to work costs and the use of
support worker. The employment service also operates a job
introduction scheme where employers can receive a weekly grant
towards employment costs for the first six weeks.

I hope my experience will instil confidence in others in their
search for employment as well as encouraging employers to employ
disabled people.

Julie Turner is a disabled service user and works in
social care.

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