Podcast: The impact of music, subcultures and school

The Disability Download

On this episode, we catch up with Niall, who was diagnosed with Asperger's as a teenager. Niall reflects on the impact of school, music and subcultures on his life growing up and shares his views on how he thinks big companies can help close the disability employment gap.


Niall O’Reilly: But you know the importance of subculture within you know equality and understanding and stuff that you wouldn't get taught about in school. Just you know, being around those different kinds of people and how much that you know develops your mindset and understanding of other people.

Erin O’Reilly: Hello and welcome to The Disability Download. The Disability Download is bought to you by pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire. I’m Erin O’Reilly and on this podcast we respond to current topics, share stories and open up conversations about disability.

Hi everyone and thanks so much for tuning in! So this episode is actually a really special one for me because I sat down with my younger brother Niall, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was a teenager.  And we just have a really, really interesting chat and reflect on Niall’s journey and his experiences since he was a teenager, from music and subcultures to living in America and getting a degree. 
Niall’s views are his own. So, let’s hear from him!

Erin: You got diagnosed with Asperger’s when you were a teenager? Uhm, how did that kind of affect you in terms of getting the diagnosis and what was your school experience like up until that point and did that change once you got the diagnosis as well?

Niall: So I was diagnosed I think when I was 13, but at the time, you know, I was in local school, I was in I think maybe probably about halfway through year nine or a little bit less and I was getting in a lot of trouble. And my parents were trying their best to get the diagnosis as quick as possible, but back then, it was very different times to how it is now. The testing isn't as uh accessible or as fast so I had to go through a lot of different processes. And in between that time of trying to get the diagnosis, I was kicked out of school permanently.

My parents had tried, you know, got in in additional support to try and explain to the you know, the headmaster as well as the school board, that it’s suspected that I do have a learning disability, and that's why, uhm, it's affecting my behavior. But I think it was so far gone at that point that they just weren't willing to understand. And I think even if I had gotten the diagnosis whilst I was still at the school, I don’t think it would have made a difference because I think back then, the, the lack of understanding of autism and how it affects teenagers especially, was just completely different to anything that they would have had to have processed back then. So I think the outcome would have been the same.

And after that I had probably about a year out of school before going to another school called Samuel Whitbread which is in Shefford. And they...it was a mainstream...you know, like a regular mainstream school, but it had a unit for kids with autism and other you know severe learning disabilities and you got that additional support whilst also still being able to be in mainstream school. You had the, the teaching assistants that were you know specialised in in that kind of support role, as well as you know a unit to be able to go back to and do your additional work and just have a place to relax. Or if you're feeling stressed somewhere to go and calm down.

And that was a blessing because I think if I hadn't of had that opportunity to go there, I wouldn't have made it through school. Because in between getting kicked out of the... my old one I had to go...initially I went to like a kind of like a halfway school for the kids that have been kicked out of school. Not just kids that had learning difficulties, just people that have been expelled permanently. And that just wasn't a good place to be. It wasn't really a form of education, it was more of just a, you know dump them there and they will be alright for a few months until and then we'll we'll make sure they go and sort something else out. And thankfully Mum and Dad were actively trying to find the best option for me, education wise. 

I think it wasn't necessarily something that like I recognised as something that would help me in education going forward. It was just kind of, for me, it was just a thing that I was told that I had and it was explained to me why it affects this and why it affects that and I kind of just was just like oh OK. And then when I went to that second school, I kind of, began to understand it a little bit more. Because the things that were affecting me and affecting my education were then helped by the teaching assistants there. And they helped me kind of push past that and become more comfortable within an educational setting.

Erin: And you actually had quite a unique experience in the fact that you've gone to school, not just in England, but also you were in school in America, in Tennessee, for kind of your younger years of education.

Kind of reflecting back on that now do you feel like there was maybe a difference in terms of the way teachers approached you? Do you think there could have been more awareness in one place or the other about disability and kind of teaching assistants? Is there anything you know that kind of sticks in your mind about those two experiences and kind of how, how people I guess approached, approached you?

You've kind of mentioned that you were kind of expelled for, for bad behavior do you feel like at school, teachers just kind of often straight away just assumed that you were just being naughty and no one was kind of trying to look I guess beyond that, to see if that if there was something more going on?

Niall: I would say that my experience in America, American education was probably I would say it was slightly better than here. Mum and dad would probably think differently. But in a sense of that even though I was, you know getting in trouble for behaving badly or whatever, I was still, I still wasn't really struggling in school.

Like I...I mean education wise I would definitely be, I would be struggling with Maths and and things like that because again this was before I even had a diagnosis for dyscalculia. So Maths was always the key issue within school. You know, even when I was getting the additional support at Samuel Whitbread Maths was always the issue.

But I still, you know, I think it's because I was a lot younger in America and I think kind of being naughty was probably more expected from that age. But I still had fun I still had a lot of friends and I still enjoyed doing, you know, the, the things that we were able to do in that school. But teaching there, especially in the South is very old fashioned compared to other parts of America, as well as here.

I, I don't think that there would have been much difference in America, though, later on with the diagnosis there than would have been now. I feel like where we lived in America, I don't think the resource...like the access to a school with a unit specifically for kids with autism would have been a thing at all, and I think I probably would have struggled a lot more. Because the support just wouldn’t have been there.

I was always out of that of, you know me, you and Liam I was the one that probably didn't get as comfortable with an education 'cause I was the youngest. And also because I struggled a lot more with certain topics and subjects. Which at the time wasn’t a big deal to me, but it was obviously something that Mum and Dad recognised and knew that it was going to become a problem at some point. And I do believe that they obviously would have had their suspicions from early that I had some sort of learning difficulty. But I won't try and you know, separate American from England, I think the results would have been the same and how teachers looked at it.

Bad behaviour in in America wouldn’t, definitely Tennessee especially, wouldn't of been tolerated at all. Not that it was tolerated here, but I think I would have been kicked out a lot quicker in America. And then that would obviously have been worse because there wouldn't have been any options for me there.

But I think that when I look back at it now, I was definitely lucky to be diagnosed....diagnosed when I was because I think that the professionals were a lot more tuned in on how to help because it wasn't something that they were always dealing with. Whereas now they're probably you know, seeing hundreds of kids every, every other month that are expected to have autism, because it's such a common thing now. People are realising that what their kids might have actually has a label for it. But I think for me education would have always been the same. It was always going to have to be something that I experienced negatively and I'm glad that I did because it just kind of gave me maybe like a bit more of a backbone going forward. And not just kind of accepting that I'm a naughty kid and that I just do bad things and I'm not a good person and don't care about education. It’s just like there was an actual reasoning behind it.

Erin: You've kind of touched on, you know, awareness amongst like teachers and professionals now where people are, you know, more aware of autism and seeking to get those diagnoses and stuff. Do you feel like now as well, 'cause obviously being at school it wouldn't have just been the teachers that didn't have the awareness but also the other students which can cause a whole other different kind of level of of issues at school, do you feel like now maybe younger people do have a bit more awareness of autism and might be a bit more kind of like understanding at school?

And do you feel like, yeah, you know, even in your own friendship groups, it's something that you've kind of really raised awareness about, do you think just generally, there's more awareness and understanding of it now, obviously, than when you were younger? But do you think there's still more that needs to be done as well?

Niall: I’d say now is probably a kind of 50/50 situation in terms of younger kids understanding it. I think autism is being portrayed a lot, portrayed a lot more with in television and film. Or just, you know, people, who are you know, whether it be celebrities or intellects and so on, who have autism or other learning difficulties, I think it's something that's a lot more talked about. A lot more celebrated other than looked at negatively.

But I also think because there's so many different levels of the spectrum of autism, it obviously affects every individual in a completely different way. I think there's the kind of, you know the....I wouldn’t call it arrogance, but just naivety that everyone autism is the exact same. It affects them all the same. You will have the people with autism like me where it's not as easy to recognise on the surface, but when you, when you are around it within certain settings and it becomes more noticeable. But then you'll have people with autism that have more physical aspects to it. You know things that they do to calm themselves down within anxious situations. You know whether it be like physical tics, some sort of certain specific movement, or you know you'll get kids that would they adapt their accent to, you know whether it be a character in some sort of series or movie that they like or just a different accent.

And then that is looked at as OK they probably have a learning difficulty. And then maybe it's understood more then. But I think it's very hard to teach, you know, like a 12 or 13 year old the differences of the spectrum of autism and what to expect. Uhm, and you will unfortunately get the, the younger kids especially, who just see it as a as a weird thing because they don't understand it. I think, you'd have to be a very horrible person to have it explained to you and then still refuse to see it as anything other than weird. And I’ve been fortunate enough within mainstream schools that have explained it to people that didn’t understand it and for them to completely, you know, change their view on what it is and be more tolerant. But unfortunately you're going to get plenty of kids that will be bullied for it, and they won’t know any differently. 

I mean I was bullied for it plenty by people that I, you know, even at the time considered friends. But I do think it’s something that’s more talked about. I don't think it's probably spoken about enough outside of school. I think you know there's only so much a teacher can tell you for you to take it in. Because a lot of stuff that you're told within school, especially in the early stages of school where you're not really focusing on like end results, it’s just kind of, you know, the early stage of education at higher level. A lot of the information is going in one ear and out the other, so I do think it's kind of like a thing that maybe parents should let their kids know about and that can be said about all sorts of different things, not even just disabilities. You know, because if you said about, you know, race, sexuality, religion, anything like that. I do think that all things that stand out maybe a little bit more, especially to younger kids, should be explained at home as well.

But thankfully, from my experiences from like a certain age going forward, I've had friends you know, who didn't know anything about it before then, you know look to me for explanation and just helping them understand and that's been a positive experience for me. And even you know going forward into college and then uni you know, you'd be surprised by how many people at an older age don't have any idea about it because no one’s ever bothered explaining it.

And then you'll get the people that will then notice certain traits within themselves. And then you know, maybe that will then lead to them looking into it more, and and maybe seeking a diagnosis because I've met so many people my age who are 100% autistic who have never been diagnosed because it was never something that they would have thought about because of course not all kids with autism behave badly in school. It doesn't always mean that they, that it affects them in education, because, you know, you get certain kids with autism who are geniuses or extremely good at certain subjects so...and love and love learning. So it's never been something that's affected them to the point where they felt that...where someone felt that they needed the diagnosis for them to succeed more.

But I do think that once you hit certain age, and you do notice that you may have it then the diagnosis is definitely a good thing because you never know how much it could benefit you. With me with the diagnosis when I had it, I didn't think any differently and I've always struggled because it's something that people don't expect when they meet me because it's not something that affects me visibly. I’ve always found it very difficult to explain how it affects me because I don’t know any different. Whereas with some people where it does affect them a lot on the surface, the diagnosis 100% helps them understand why they, why they’re that way. 

But it all comes with time I think over...you know going forward, as time goes on it will be something that’s understood at a way better level. And I do think it helps you know when certain, you know, celebrities you know are expected to have autism. Like one thing that I kind of thought about recently and I thought how good it is, is that you know Lionel Messi, who's you know considered the greatest footballer of all time, he’s expected to have Asperger’s. And you think about all those young kids that idolize him at a very young age and they hear that, then they might think ah what’s that, and then they read up on it and then they understand it. And the fact that a footballer that they love has it, means that maybe if there’s a kid in their school that has it, or in their class, who maybe acts a bit differently because of it, they might think ah well he’s got what Messi has, that’s cool. And it will help them understand it at a way better level.

And I think things like that are important. I don’t think it always has to be explained or taught in a very direct sense where it’s like you’re being told exactly how it affects and then having to process all that information. I think just little things like saying oh this person...this celebrity has it or you know Einstein was expected to have Asperger’s. Just little things like that goes a lot further than just a whole block of information that you know just seems like it’s just another thing being taught to you in school.

Erin: Yeah, so kind of like changing the narrative around it and also different people talking about it shows actually how different it is in everyone. So people having access to that and like you say, learning about it and I guess relating to those people in different ways I think is really important. You kind of mentioned earlier obviously the teaching assistants that you had later on were really, really crucial for you in terms of continuing your education, and then you went on to university. How was the kind of the university experience for you and did you feel like there was maybe access to more support actually at that level than what you'd had before, if you'd have wanted it? 

Niall: The support was 100% there if I need it. My university was especially good for that, because there obviously would have been tons of kids there with autism rather or other learning difficulties, and they had a massive support unit if you were to want it. And you know I met with him a few times and they didn't try and push it on me and say we want you to have this support, we want you to come here for that. They were just like we're here  if you need it, and you know what anything you need additional help with you just have to come and ask them.

For me the teaching assistants that I had at Samuel Whitbread, without then, I would never have reached a higher level of education and when I moved on from upper school to college, I think I expected the support to be the same. Whereas at college, or at least the college that I was at, their understanding again on it, despite it being a lot later in time in terms of the understanding of autism and how it affects people, you know they didn’t have a clue. And the learning support that they had there, wasn't an option for me it was forced on me to the point where I just didn’t feel comfortable.

You know I didn't feel comfortable having a teaching assistant following me around, even if I asked them not to. Because a big thing for me post upper school was that I wanted to try and be as independent as possible. I didn't want to stand out in a new environment because I don't, I didn't like the attention like that. And it was a completely new environment for me. I was older, I felt like I didn't need that kind of like you know shadow on me at all times, but they just didn't understand it.

And you know, obviously, I take responsibility for my own behaviour in certain situations, but I think that pressure and anxiety caused by the support being forced on me did make me act out a bit more. And you know I struggled a lot in college and was fortunate to even reach the end of it because it was a similar situation to my first upper school where they really just wanted me gone. They didn't care about any difficulties, they just saw me as a bad student.

But when I went to university, I was kind of glad that I had that experience at college because I was able to see you know the leap and the difference, once you hit a certain age. Because when you hit a certain age of when you’re 17/18 and you’re behaving badly, unfortunately a lot of people will be ignorant and think well, they're old enough to know better. It's not going to affect them like that. This is just them choosing to be that way. And I went to uni thinking well alright well I hope they’re not going to force it on me.

I felt comfortable enough to know that I wasn’t going to misbehave in a university setting because it was a completely different level of education. I was doing what I chose to do and I wasn't having anything forced on me, I wasn't in a, you know a 8:00 AM till 3:30 start day. It was, you know, selective lessons and lectures and so on. And I was really glad with the way that they offered me the support. And I didn’t...in uni, I just  didn't need it. I felt so...it was so comfortable within that setting that I just for the first time in ages I didn’t feel that I needed that extra helping hand with certain things. But the fact that it was there and I knew it was there was definitely very comforting as well. Because I expected there to be stages where I probably because a bit overwhelmed with the workload, but even then I know that it’s a massive change in the fact that I actually could handle that a lot more than I did when I was younger.

So I think, I think the support within higher education, now is great, because the, you know, it's fully understanding of the fact that university can cause a lot of stress for anybody, not just people with difficulties and a lot of pressure. So they use it somewhat as a like a safety blanket just to have it there. You know, kind of in the background not being forced on you, but just letting you know that it's there.

And I found that very helpful and you know they would reach out to me on a regular basis through email just checking that I was alright. And that was good for me because it just made me, you know, made me feel like ok this is what it was like at upper school. I did have that extra support if I needed it and that just help me get through it. And I'm so grateful for my time at Samuel Whitbread with those teaching assistants. Because if I hadn’t have had that, I would never have thought that anyone cared at all about me or how things affected me. I would have always just felt like the kind of singled out individual who is just seen as a bad person and you know somewhat of a cancer within the students. And you know, I’d get blamed for other people’s behaviour and stuff like that. And I would never have looked at education in a positive manner at all, but my time at Samuel Whitbread and then how it helped me within university, kind of, you know, made all the hard times before that completely worth it.

Erin: And kind of beyond sort of education and university you are involved in quite a lot of creative things. You know you do your street photography and you've been in bands and done like tours with your bands in like America and Europe and that kind of thing. Was that, kind of being involved in those creative things, was that like a good outlet for you? And do you feel like in I guess you know these subcultures, do you feel like there is, I don't know, like a good awareness of diversity and the importance of inclusion? Did you feel like that within, within that kind of setting?

Niall: Yeah, music especially was always kind of a massive outlet for me in terms of just channeling certain feelings and just having that kind of extra place to go and feel, you know, comfortable, especially when I was able to start going to gigs more independently, you know with friends and just having those experiences. It....it was very normal, I didn't really have the same social anxieties as I did in other situations because I knew that people weren't gonna look at me differently.

Because it's, it's one of those things that’s isn't inclusive. You have people from all different backgrounds or different cultures with all sorts of different characteristics. And nothing was looked at in a weird way. I do think there's a lot, unfortunately now, I do think there's a lot of kind of like fake acceptance in a way of you get the people that kind of.... somewhat you know virtue signaling to extent. Where they wanna act like they are there to give that extra helping hand and make you feel better, where really they're not actually that bothered, it’s just to make them look good. That's a massive thing, but you're going to get that anywhere. You’re going to always get the fakes that just want to look like they're good people, but they're just really just trying to be as, you know, as self-promoting is possible. 

But that's one thing that I've always enjoyed about, you know, like hardcore punk and that scene is that you...it’s what it..erm...it’s what it kind of holds for other people and what it means for other people. What platform it gives people in terms of you know, from different backgrounds all come together and interacting and having that one thing in common. And it taught me a lot because coming from a place like Leighton Buzzard, it's a lot different now and which I think is great but when we were younger, it wasn't really that multicultural at all. But you know, it's a lot different now thankfully, and it is way more multicultural.

But my experiences with people from other cultural backgrounds came through music. You know obviously living in America I had plenty of friends from you know different ethnicities and backgrounds because that's just where we lived, but it was only within the educational setting. Whereas here it was like it was friends that I made away from school, friends that were going to be friends from then on. And it taught me loads about all sorts of different people and backgrounds, and the similarities between certain things.

And I think it was massively important for my development. Just as a person as well, not just necessarily for my autism, because I would never look back on it and think that my autism really had anything to do with my time now within music. Apart of maybe the fact that I became a little bit obsessed with it. Which is, you know, it's a massive common trait within people with autism is that they often find one specific thing that becomes their thing, and you become so engrossed in it. And that was definitely music for me. And then as I got older I started playing in bands. And then looked at it then completely differently because it wasn't just something that I was attending as a fan. It was something that I was able to then be a part of on a different level.

And then thankfully, you know one band got fairly big and we were able to tour Europe three times and we toured America and I was able to then utilise certain elements of my autism when it comes to organisation and planning. And just being you know that attentive to detail and I booked every European Tour that we did, you know completely myself. Planned the routes, planned the logistics. Everything like that. But we toured America, we toured with a band from over there in Florida and I you know I made all the contacts and helped plan it as much as I could come over here. And it helped me just kind of develop in different ways that I probably wouldn't have ever focused on within school.

And gave me a lot of different experiences and understanding of how the world works in different ways and the effects of subculture. Whether you know people understand...like look at it or recognise it at all. But you know the importance of subculture within you know equality and understanding and stuff that you wouldn't get taught about in school. Just you know, being around those different kinds of people and how much that you know develops your mindset and understanding of...of...of other people. And that was always an issue for me with my autism. That I always found it difficult to relate to other people emotionally and understand you know their thought process and how they feel because I looked at things in very black and white sense of where it was harder for me to completely grasp other people’s demeanours. And just them as people. And being able to kind of push past that barrier and kind of relate to them in a different way, music was a massive, massive helping hand for that.

Erin: And you know you've mentioned you know you've picked up those great skills in terms of the planning and you know, we've talked a lot about education now, and you kind of know through me and through the work of Leonard Cheshire, obviously there is a big disability employment gap in the UK and a lot needs to be done to create, you know more inclusive workplaces. Employers having that, you know it's not just teachers about having that disability awareness, but it's potential employers as well. And since you've been graduated, obviously you've been your own kind of journey in terms of trying to find employment.

How's that kind of been for you in terms of you know the experience with like interviews and applications and what's out there? Do you feel like there's enough kind of you know disability awareness for that whole kind of application process and you know what you've experienced so far? What are your thoughts on that?

Niall: So I was thinking about this the other day and how I looked at it. Because I wouldn't have always said that like it's my autism affecting my job search, because you know how would they know unless I have to declare it. And I don't think it's the declaring it that's stopping me from getting to that extra... that the next stage past applying.

I kind of recognise now just the way that my autism has affected things...like learning things. Like for me uhm maths. You know with autism often it is accompanied by all sorts of other learning difficulties. You know, a lot of autistic people have dyslexia and I have dyscalculia quite severely, which is obviously just basically dyslexia with numbers. And I never, you know, I knew that I was bad at... like I could...I didn’t understand maths. You know I failed my GCSE's in maths multiple times.

But I always thought that because I was very good at English I thought OK, well on my CV the maths isn't great, but I had English. And it took me speaking to a career advisor for them to tell me that the fact that I don't have a maths qualification will affect me for 80% of my applications. Because a lot of places, especially within certain fields like marketing and events and anything that has a financial background to accompany it, they are going to want a certain understanding of maths.

And I then also understand that it will affect me in terms of if I do have the interview stages that it will affect my, my confidence and how I represent myself. Because you know, I’m sure people without autism can relate to the fact you know, sitting there and trying to kind of sell yourself to someone that you've never met before is very difficult. And for me it's extremely difficult because I have to push past the kind of the anxiety of you know, looking the person in the eye and talking to them directly and being able to articulate myself without stumbling or mumbling on too much and just kind of losing track of what actually is being asked of me. 

But then I also think that you know, especially now post-COVID, the job world is a massive competition. Everyone’s trying to get... you know every job you apply for there's going to be dozens or even you know for certain jobs, hundreds of people applying for it. And you have to compete and unfortunately I spent a lot of time focusing on skills that don't translate well on a CV and into the job world, and that's something that I regret. And it's also down to experience.

But it's easier said than done as well gaining experience within a job setting and I always... just...it was something I put off for years because it's it was a daunting thing to me. And now I have a different view on it. You know I can, I'm not nervous about interviews and trying to represent myself in the best way, but I’m just at that stage now where it's just getting the chance to get those interviews. And I do think it's good that a lot of jobs now you get like a guaranteed interview if you have a disability. It's just about getting that opportunity and and someone giving me the chance.

Erin: I think it's like you said about getting that experience, but oftentimes these days people want experience before they'll give you work experience and it's really hard. So are there any things that you think the employers can do or like the government can do to just really close that disability employment gap? Because some people might never get the opportunity and really we need to be working towards a world where there are those equal opportunities for everyone. So are there any kind of final thoughts that you have on what can be done to kind of close that gap, or what employers could do maybe? 

Niall: I think government wise I personally don't believe there's any point in wasting your breath on those people because they will only focus on things that they will benefit from, whether it be in a social aspect of how people look at them. You know obviously they're gonna do whatever they can to make themselves look better. They don't actually care, you know, and I'm talking about in terms of the current government, they're not going to care. They're not bothered.

It's about targeting the people that have more power within the work sector and being able to actually change things positively in the right way. I think that it shouldn’t be looked at so black and white. Obviously it’s easier said than done for smaller companies. If they you know who can't afford to hire dozens of people at a time, they're obviously going to want to hire the most experienced and, uh, best person they can, but they won't necessarily need to put a lot of resource into training, who can come into the job and do something straight away. I completely get that. I don't have an issue with not being picked for something that is more specifically where experience is 100% needed because the training isn't there. The resources aren't there.

I do think bigger companies who can afford the training or can afford to give someone with lack of experience that extra helping hand, they need to actually kind of open up even more. Instead of pretending that they're willing to give you know people that actually help in hand. The power’s with them, because they're the, you know, the companies that can afford to hire multiple people at a time. They're the best options that people can get of getting into a bigger job and without the experience.

But again, it's also down to what the person applying wants to be doing. And for me, certain jobs that I'll apply for, you know they're not going to have the resources to train me, you know, competently in everything that I don't understand. That's fine, but I do think that it needs to be more of an actual action than just a front in terms of hiring people with disabilities, and that doesn't even just mean autism. Just any disability, because a lot of people will look at it and think ah they’re not able to do that, they're not able to do this. And that obviously isn't true. With certain people maybe it is, but for a lot of the point.... chances are if someone with disability is applying for a certain job, they know that they're capable of doing the job they're applying for. They're not just applying for it for the sake of applying. They think that they can do it.

And I think a lot of employers are scared to kind of take that chance and hire someone that they might you know naturally, 'cause it is a, it is a natural thought process for a lot of people to think like ah will they be able to do that 'cause their disability. And I don't think that it’s a a bad thing to think that because you have a responsibility as an employer to be able to one, fill the job that, you know, you're advertising, but also make sure that that person is not only doing it properly, but also feels comfortable doing it. You know you don't want to be the employer who hires someone with a disability and they end up, you know, hating it and it makes their life harder. But it's always, you know, it's easier to change things with an education within just the real world and a couple of jobs is always going to be difficult in terms of access.

It's something that's gonna take a long time to change and that will require you know maybe additional funding or just, you know, even little things like apprenticeships specifically for kids with disabilities, or just those little roles that then could build into more. Because a lot of people with disabilities will take any chance they can get when it comes to employment because they know they're already, you know, they've already got one strike against them unfortunately. So even like a lower paid job with less responsibility that can become more responsibility, could do wonders for them because it also gives them that experience. And like you said, a lot of these people want experience, but how you going to get experience if no one’s giving you that opportunity to get the experience.

So I do think the companies that have the resources to create those roles that  lead to experience, but not necessarily a large amount of responsibility that can overwhelm someone, they should be doing that. But that's all down to funding, that’s all down to money and that's always going to be more complicated than it seems on the surface, and you never really understand it unless you’re there and seeing all the little bits behind the doors that only certain people are gonna see.

Erin: Yeah, and I think it's important what you said earlier actually about maybe employers just having this preconceived idea that hiring a disabled person is like leads to these you know, maybe extra expenses or extra training and extra support, and they you know they feel like reasonable adjustments are you know, maybe too much for them to give, and actually it's having that awareness that some adjustments are just very small like you say, just having that extra support or having a work load that is more manageable.

So I guess like you say, it just comes down to there just being better awareness of disability at every level. And know you, you know you said it could take a long time, but I guess it comes back to we've kind of come full circle talking about school 'cause if there's that education from the word go, then that's something that people will take with them throughout their whole life. And I hope that in the not too distant future we see that disability gap closing but like you say maybe future generations there will be just that, better that better understanding of disability. Thank you so much Niall for coming and talking about your experiences, we really, really appreciate it.

Niall: Thank you for having me.

Erin: It was a real pleasure for me to you know sit down with Niall and have such a candid conversation and just get his insight into how things have changed, but what he thinks still needs to change as well. And also get his reflections on the last decade or so. We’d love to know what you thought of the episode as well and any of your own reflections, so please do email us at disabilitydownload@leonardcheshire.org or DM us on Twitter or Instagram @LeonardCheshire 

You can go to our Simplecast site as well to find the links to our socials and I’ll also put the links to the Leonard Cheshire employment research we referenced in our conversations and some of those resources as well, so check those out if you want to have a read. And please do remember to like, share and subscribe to the podcast!

Stay safe everyone, until next time, I’m Erin and this has been The Disability Download!