Why should my disability mean that I miss out on a career where I can shine, feel respected useful and wanted?
As I write this, I’m coming to terms with the shock of redundancy, I turn 31 in a few days and I have lost my job, something which gave me an identity and in a small way broke down that stereotypical view that disabled people sit at home all day, watching Jeremy Kyle because we’re incapable of having a life
From the age of about Seven, I had always wanted to work in Television, more specifically wanting to become the first Blue Peter Presenter in a Wheelchair. I wanted to show other disabled people that you can do anything is you put your mind to it.
This was quite a huge ambition but after years of focus and determination in my education at a special school for Children with disabilities, where I was allowed to grow up uninhibited by my disability and made to feel like I am ‘normal’ I attended a mainstream college where I studied film and television, it was here, where my communication skills grew from my love of media, which were nurtured while a student during my time at Lichfield College doing a National Diploma in Media (Moving Image) and then at Staffordshire University doing my foundation degree in Film and Television Production Management.
It was no surprise to anyone that my stubbornness paid off and I found myself at the BBC working as a Production Management Assistant at the BBC.
I bloomed while working at the BBC. This was a huge learning curve. Going from Producing Student films to being thrown in at the deep end, at a busy Production Office, it gave me a keen eye for detail, honed my organisational and negotiation skills, and instilled in me the importance of being a proactive personable team player, whilst being able to multi-tasking and meet deadlines. This also gave me a great understanding of how the Media works, and as a Volunteer on Hospital Radio, I continued to develop my strong interpersonal skills to entertain the patients at Queen’s Hospital, Burton on Trent with enthusiasm, humour and passion. Hosting a regular show in the schedule gave me opportunity to use my creative flair to create content.
Sadly, due to Budget cutbacks after a year and a half I was made redundant. And gained employment working for a CIC, an initiative set up by my old School to help their Students obtain Meaningful Work Based Learning Opportunities. As their Marketing and PR Manager, I had no experience as a Marketer at the time but learnt everything I know on the job, i as Marketing Manager at the Saxon Hill Craft Barn, I gained a great deal of experience within Social Media Management, Marketing, Communications and PR, and have used innovative new ways to support the delivery of Marketing Campaigns to encourage growth of our customer base and conduct Market research and analysis.
Last year I developed ‘The Community Doodle Project’ in association with South Staffordshire Network for Mental Health, which will see the Community produce around 2,500 Doodles that adorned a 10ft sculptured Owl, which is being unveiled in September, to highlight the work of The CIC that had an ethos I was so passionate about, showing society that I’m more than my barriers, I’m more than a wheelchair and no matter what your difficulties you can contribute in some way to modern life in Britain.
The Community Doodle Project also had at its heart, engagement with the wider community. We have engaged with local primary schools, South Staffs College, St. Giles Hospice, Lichfield Bower, South Staffs Network for Mental Health and parents and friends of Saxon Hill Academy by running doodle workshops and school sessions.
Despite the challenges of such a project, I have found the opportunities to strengthen my skills very rewarding, and that of event management, taking something from conception through to implementation and then on to construction. I have been responsible for every aspect of this project, from booking venues for doodle workshops and public events, coordination of guest lists and invites to the official unveiling, and liaising with colleagues both inside and outside the marketing team on all aspects of the project.
I feel strongly that is important for me to give back to society, for the last four years I have been volunteering for Silver Line, undergoing their volunteer training programme to become a telephone befriender for their team. To me this experience has been so rewarding, being able to reach out to an older person in society who feels lonely and isolated. I have been commended by my volunteer manager for my efforts to help my caller find a new sense of confidence and this has led her to join a local luncheon club, join in activities at her community centre and find a new group of friends which has helped to combat the sense of isolation and loneliness she was experiencing.
As redundancy approaches, I’m looking for new challenges, and I’m aiming to find work within the admin, project assistant sector in South Staffordshire. I strive to be acknowledged for my ability rather than my disability. I try to show that my wheelchair is just a tool to enable me to be me. It doesn’t define me. When people give me a chance and see past my barriers, they are investing in me, my skills and experiences of creative industries.
To be given an opportunity which would allow me to spread my wings and prove myself is all I want, and it is my aim to repay this investment tenfold as a loyal and hardworking employee, helping in any way I can as part of your work family.
I thrive in creative teams. In my experience there’s no feeling quite like having a collective creative focus that lets you witness the fruits of your labour to share pride with your peers that comes when you, as a team, have made positive impact on a community or business, providing exciting new ways to make a statement or help make a difference to their company. I can bring enthusiasm, a friendly approach to team working, determination to succeed and always do my best.
But in order to do my best I need to be supported in the work place, reaching for things, carrying items taking notes and personal care, mostly but its this very fact that makes people, employers panic, despite the fact Access to Work fund this and it cost nothing to my potential employer
I am used to the stereotype of Disability, it hangs around my neck like a dead weight, I have always had to go above and beyond to prove I’m just as good if not better than my able bodied peers, that bit doesn’t bother me, what does upset, is the fact that, despite the fact I’m passionate, hardworking and enthusiastic and it’s clear my disability hasn’t stopped me living a rich, full and eventful life, but I find it very frustrating when society is so scared of things they don’t understand it stops, strangers becoming friends and prospective colleagues finding great employers.
I would shed all this skin if that’s what it takes to prove we are all the same.