Twenty-five year-old Felix, from East London, recently completed First Impressions, First Experiences, a pre-employment course for young disabled job-seekers. In this guest post for Learning Disability Week, Felix explains how employers’ attitudes need to change, and the importance of role-models for young disabled people.
When people think of disabled people they usually think of somebody who’s using a wheelchair. If they took their blinders off, they would realise that there’s so much more to it than that.
The first thing we need is for employers to be educated about disability.
But the other thing is for disabled candidates to strike up the confidence to tell the employer: “This is my condition, this is the support I need”. I feel like I can do that now.
First Impressions, First Experiences
Before I joined First Impressions, I was working for a firm in East London. It didn’t go well, and I realised that while my Asperger’s syndrome isn’t something I should be ashamed of, it’s not something I can just ignore. I needed some support.
Doing things like CVs and interviewing techniques has been very useful. I’ve learnt things I hadn’t even heard about, like how to disclose that you’re disabled in a positive way. First Impressions also set up a work placement for me in an office, and from my first day there I knew it was going to be a good experience.
I wasn’t just left in one place – I was in marketing, HR, IT and the general office, so I got the chance to experience different areas and juggle different things.
I definitely feel I could do that kind of job now – I can pick up the phone and talk appropriately, I can sort through mail, I can do admin and so on. But my ideal career option would be a job which enables young people to realise their potential.
What I’ve learned over the past six months
You can’t compare yourself to everybody else. Can you imagine how bland and boring the world would be if everybody was the same? Everybody brings something new to the table.
You may feel that the world doesn’t understand you, but it doesn’t mean that you have to let your life go downhill.
But you do need guidance, and this is where mentoring and ongoing support becomes handy as well.
Having role models is good too – you see someone like Nick Hamilton, the racing driver who has cerebral palsy, and you realise that what you want to do is possible, you just need to go about it the right way.
I feel that what I’ve learnt from First Impressions I can build on in the future.
I’m working towards being in employment. I’ll have to be tough, because I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction.