Charlotte Jukes is a qualified teacher based in Wales. After graduating with a first-class honours degree in teaching, she started applying for jobs but wasn’t getting any interviews. She decided to stop disclosing that she was disabled, just to see what happened, and suddenly she was getting interviews.
She’s supporting our Work With Me campaign to ensure that disabled people can get and stay in work.
I injured my spine in 2002 and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013. I’m in quite a lot of pain every day. I’ve had my conditions for quite some time and they have worsened over the years. I was a teacher up until March this year.
When I first graduated, with first-class honours, I thought it was going to be quite an easy process to get interviews. Especially given that my Local Authority have a policy where disabled people are guaranteed an interview if they meet the person specification.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Friends with fewer qualifications were getting interviews for the same jobs
I was very confused. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I found out that my friends who had 2:1s and 2:2s were being interviewed for jobs that I wasn’t.
I was the one people would come to for help with grammar, application forms, personal statements and CVs because English language is one of my specialist subjects, so I knew my applications couldn’t be bad.
I emailed the council to ask why I wasn’t being given interviews, as a disabled person who met all the requirements, but I didn’t receive a response. It just made me feel a bit hopeless. I felt like I was never going to be able to get a job.
As soon as I stopped ticking the ‘disabled’ box, I got interviews
My husband suggested that I applied for some jobs without marking the ‘disabled’ box, just to see what happened. I was a bit sceptical at first because surely if there is a policy in place, they wouldn’t be ignoring it? I was also worried. If I needed time off sick or I needed adjustments putting in place to make my role easier, what would happen then if I hadn’t declared that I was disabled?
As soon as I stopped ticking the disabled box, the interviews started coming in. I think I applied for eight or nine jobs then, and was given interviews for all of them.
I feel like there’s not much point in having a policy for guaranteeing interviews for disabled candidates who meet the criteria if they aren’t going to abide by that.
When I finally did get a job, I had all the support I needed
I was offered a job and the Head Teacher was excellent. When I first took the job, my conditions weren’t affecting me as much, but then the Fibromyalgia started to flare up. Things were worsening with my back and my arthritis as well.
When I told the Head Teacher that I was struggling, she referred me to occupational health. They made adaptations to make things easier. Things like a trolley for carrying books and special seats. That was great. I was very lucky there.
I loved everything about the job and I thought I was good at it. I loved the children and everything, it was brilliant! It was everything I’d ever wanted. I was even nominated for “The Pride of Wales” Award for “Teacher of the Year”, and I actually won that in 2016. Sadly, my contact was only for two years and I left in March this year.
Now that I’m unemployed again, I’m worried I won’t get another job
I’ve started using a wheelchair and I feel that I have to tick the ‘disabled’ box now. If I didn’t and I just turned up in a wheelchair, I don’t know if the school will have access.
I’m worried about the future because I know it’s going to be very hard for me to get back into work. What will I do after all the years of work that I put in to train to be a teacher? It’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little girl, and to know that I won’t be given a chance just because I’m disabled is hard to accept.
I’m supporting Work With Me because I think that employers and policies need to improve. Just because I’m in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean that I can’t do the job as well as any other person.
Be part of making change happen. Find out more about Work With Me and share the campaign on your social media networks using #WorkWithMe.
We’ll be publishing a series of powerful stories, videos and photography over the coming weeks to highlight the issue so that we can secure everyday equality for disabled people.