We need to debunk myths about employing disabled people
Amrit tells us about her experience trying to find employment and how she's now using her voice to highlight a more positive and balanced image of disabled people.
My employment journey has been disappointing, to say the least. I have the desire to work, earn a living and feel that sense of satisfaction when picking up my payslip, knowing that I have worked hard for my earnings.
Trying to find a job
As a blind person, I find the whole process of applying and finding employment hugely challenging and daunting. It is a given fact that a complete and impressive looking CV is a significant factor in moving through the application process. But to produce a CV of any worth, I would require specialist support and visual guidance.
I am not sure who would be able to provide such a service free of charge. In any case, I don't think that my CV would truly reflect what I am capable of when the proper support and equipment is available. Also, I have had limited opportunities to show off my skills in work experience and volunteer placements. It's so frustrating as you feel like you are in a perpetual vicious circle.
Being made to feel grateful
I have tried to overcome these barriers by joining specialist work providers. Still, they are equally at a loss as to what to do with my lack of work experience and how to fill in the gap between studying to the present day.
They tended to recommend stereotypical jobs like a perfume tester or charity shop assistant. I was made to feel that I should be grateful that at least I would be getting a job. I am proud to say that my goals are set much higher than this. I like a challenge in my work, one that pushes me out of my comfort zone.
Looking for volunteering work
Until recently, I was looking for volunteer work with the hope that this would lead to employment. Unfortunately, this proved to be as challenging as finding a job. I faced the problem that most volunteer services did not have adequate funding to provide me with specialist equipment. I needed a sighted support worker or financial assistance for my travel to and from the role.
More importantly, I wanted to volunteer in a role in line with my passion for creating positive perceptions of disability, true to my personality, which would also challenge me as a person. But then I learned that Leonard Cheshire had a huge array of volunteering opportunities, coupled with the understanding and resources to support me.
This has now given me a voice, renewed confidence and has widened my horizons through new opportunities.
Using my voice
When I have time to prepare and am informed about what I am talking about, I am super confident presenting to a large audience or in front of a camera. I want to use my lived experience of being blind to help others. I want to create a positive and balanced image of disabled people, highlight issues that affect us daily, and celebrate disabled people's achievements.
As a result of delivering to diverse audiences, I have acquired experience and knowledge of adapting my presentations to meet the needs of my listeners.
Having to work harder
If I was lucky enough to get a job interview, I know that I would have to prove my value that much harder than the next applicant. It is common knowledge that employers are riddled with prejudice about visually impaired people. Many employers are still reluctant to employ blind people as they are unaware of what we can and cannot achieve. Leonard Cheshire's research findings about entrenched stigma towards disabled people amongst employers were no surprise to me.
I feel like they believe that we can't successfully contribute to the labour market and competently hold down a job. Sadly, the myth that employing a disabled employer is costly and a waste of time and money persists. Employers need to be made more aware of what we are capable of and the support available to employ disabled workers.
Still Locked Out
Governments and businesses have adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic. However, many key barriers to disabled people finding and staying in meaningful employment unfortunately remain.
The government must act now to ensure that disabled people aren’t left behind both during and after the coronavirus pandemic.