Felix took part in First Impressions, First Experiences, a pre-employment course for young disabled jobseekers. Since then he’s been working hard to reach his goals and he’s passionate about changing employers’ attitudes towards disability.
For End the Awkward, Felix talks about how he learned to see disability in a positive light and why employers need to do the same.
Before I joined Scope’s pre-employment programme, I was working for a firm in East London. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to plan and I realised that, while my autism can’t be ignored, it isn’t something that I should be ashamed of.
Now I talk about disability in a positive light
In the past, I wouldn’t have disclosed my autism to potential employers, but Scope’s pre-employment programme taught me how to talk about it in a positive way. Now I do talk about autism and those who I’ve worked with have seen it in a positive light. Instead of just seeing autism as a negative, I’ve shown that there are many positives as well.
I think there are two ways to improve inclusiveness in the workplace. The first thing is for employers to be educated about disability, but another way is for potential candidates, who are disabled, to strike up the confidence to say “This is my condition, this is why I need support”. I’ve also learned to highlight the positives that I can bring to the workplace so that potential employers don’t feel the need to question my abilities.
Employers shouldn’t hide from disability
I read an article about how 49 per cent of companies don’t want to hire someone who has learning difficulties and that affected me because I’m part of that demographic. And unfortunately, it said further on in the article that only 7% of people with learning difficulties are in employment which means that 93% have been forgotten about.
Workplaces can be more autism friendly by being patient when it comes to communication, reinforcing boundaries regarding employee relations, and if there is an incident where the individual is anxious then it would be best to find to out why. They should acknowledge that autistic people have skills and see how those skills could be best utilised by the organisation.
Education is key
I discovered that two thirds of the public are still uncomfortable with people with disabilities, and that’s very clear in terms of employment and in terms of social life. There’s a long way to go to improve attitudes and awareness.
I feel like there’s a lack of diversity regarding the public image of disabled people. When people think of a disabled person they usually think of somebody who’s using a wheelchair. But it’s so much more.
People need to be educated about what cerebral palsy is, about what autism is, how they can make adaptations, and so on. Education is key so that employers know how to support that person’s needs. You could have a positive mindset but if the work environment isn’t supportive, it can go downhill from there.
Everybody brings something new to the table
I think that awareness campaigns like End the Awkward can have an impact on employers and on the wider public. Disability is a broad spectrum. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t automatically mean they can’t do something.
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. My achievements are a testament to how disability doesn’t have to be a barrier to having a good life. It’s time other people realised that.
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