Vinny's barriers to employment

Vinny Keating

Vinny talks about the barriers he faced in the workplace when trying to access reasonable adjustments.

I was rendered medically retired because they didn’t know what else to do with me. I didn’t fit into their structures.

Man on crutches standing in front of a train

When we talk about access, we tend to talk about disabled people as an isolated group that needs help. But that’s not necessarily true. There’s an over-arching benefit to making workplaces accessible for everyone, not just a minority.

On a basic level, when I was returning to work after my operation, my medical issues had been addressed. But there was still the fundamental problem of getting in and out of the building and other simple but essential adjustments that needed to be done. 

I wanted to get back to work as soon as possible

For a start, I think employers need a greater awareness of the social model of disability – the daily barriers, negative attitudes and needless exclusion by society that can hold someone back, as opposed to the perceived limitations of their physical attributes.

I’ve always wanted to get back to work as soon as possible, and all my operations happened with lots of advance notice, so there was substantial time to put the support provisions in place. My line manager had no medical expertise or knowledge of my health condition, so a simple conversation would’ve sufficed.

But this didn’t happen.

It can be really humiliating

Post operation, there were issues with not being able to physically access the office building, with no lift and revolving doors only at the entrance. It can be really humiliating. 

I’ve also been frustrated at the lack of a simple footstool. I shouldn’t suffer the indignity of having a meeting with my foot in a cast on an upturned bin. It’s a simple adjustment.  

Also, developing a workplan/agreement is vital in terms of on-going monitoring of how you’re getting on. Then you can log your personal interpretation of your working week, and whether you’re improving health-wise. HR should be learning from successes and adapting their processes accordingly.

Maternity leave is a scheme that works for so many people and staff may require it several times over the years with limited impact on their career. There are similarities in the case of my disability, as when I relapsed, I could identify the likely period of absence from work and plans could be made.

Lack of understanding

I also think disabled people should be financially supported to retire earlier. I retired before I turned 40, however it was never likely I would reach pension age of 67 so there’s a good case for reform.  

The fact is, with the toll a condition can take on you physically, you may well be giving up work earlier. 

Nobody has ever tried to openly discriminate against me, and at worst it can seem an almost insidious thing, but it’s based on a lack of understanding. I don’t expect people to know about by specific medical condition, but I do want them to understand that I’m just trying to go about my daily life. 

I was rendered medically retired because they didn’t know what else to do with me. I didn’t fit into their structures. Developing understanding in the workplace is a cultural shift and one that needs to accelerate now.

Health is everybody's business

The government has proposed changes to workplace support for people with long-term conditions in the ‘Health is everyone’s business consultation’.

We're calling for mandatory reporting on how many disabled people are employed by large companies so that workplaces are fully inclusive and fair.

Read what we told the government (Word — docx format — 113KB)