Holly moved to the UK from America over 10 years ago. Being blind, she has experienced many challenges in finding employment.
Here she talks about some of those challenges, bad attitudes she has experienced and what she thinks needs to change to ensure that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else.
My first proper job over here was as a nursing assistant on a psychiatric hospital ward. Before I could start, I had to have an occupational health assessment. The woman in the assessment knew that I was visually impaired and she was asking me lots of questions like, ‘how would you see if someone threw something at you?’ and stuff like that. I obviously wanted to say I can see stuff like this but didn’t want to reply sarcastically because the job depended on this.
At the time, I had just moved to the UK, which was very expensive, and me and my husband had no money between us. It was so important that I got this job. We were just living day to day and having to borrow money which was just so miserable. I didn’t want to say anything wrong or make the assessors get mad at me or anything like that.
It was worse than weird
The assessment was just really confusing. She kept asking me about medical records that I didn’t have any of over here. When she suggested that I should get my medical records sent from the US over to here, I didn’t know whether me getting the job depended on this happening.
Towards the end of the assessment, the woman pointed out that my shoelace was untied and I kind of nodded but thought it would be rude to interrupt the conversation to sort it. Before I’d even had a chance to say that or tie it myself, she leant over and did it for me. She actually tied my shoe for me!
It was one of those things where I just thought, I need to leave before I do or say anything! At the time I thought it was weird. But it was worse than weird. It was condescending and so horrible. It really didn’t imply anything good about what this woman thought of disabled people.
When I got home, I was just really confused and my husband was really upset on my behalf. He didn’t think that I was treated very well.
It was such a stressful time
After all this, I got the job and, because it was such a big hospital, I luckily never had to see her again after that! Unfortunately, this was only a one year contract and due to various reasons, it made me very ill and stressed. This resulted in me having over two years of job hunting and applying for ESA.
Looking for work was such a stressful time. It felt like I already had a full time job sorting out ESA. It was more exhausting than any job I’ve ever had and was just a total nightmare.
Not only was I foreign and disabled, but my qualifications were from a different country and I also now had a massive hole in my CV.
Sometimes it’s hard to separate what’s an effect of being an immigrant and what’s an effect of being disabled, but I think both of these things make employers look at me and say “there’s somebody else who’s easier”
Disabled people aren’t scary!
I think employers need to not be scared! I want them to be able to talk to me about disability.
If an employer could just ask us what we need or what they could do to make it possible for us to work there, everything would be so much better.
It should be ok to ask these things. Disabled people are less work, less scary and much less of a burden than employers think we are. I think there needs to be much more of a willingness to talk and more assurance for disabled people that there won’t be any nasty consequences of asking for what you need, that if you say the wrong thing, you won’t get the job.
I’m not that difficult to give a job to. Honestly!
The Government want to know what you think needs to change about the support disabled people get in and out of work. They want feedback on their proposals and will be accepting views until Friday 17 February 2017.