Tag Archives: Discrimination

If you’re disabled, finding a job can be a difficult and disappointing experience – help us change that

Josh is 32 and lives in London. He is supporting Scope and Virgin Media‘s new campaign Work With Me, which aims to bring about real change, to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work, are given the same opportunities as everyone else. 

I graduated with a degree in Politics and International Relations in 2011, then I moved back to London and primarily looked for jobs in public administration. I’ve had a lot of voluntary opportunities but only two paid jobs.

I suppose, like many disabled people, I’ve found it difficult to go through the traditional channels. I’ve done countless interviews and applications but only had probably one or two interview opportunities from that. I think a lot of my work experience has been down to sheer perseverance.

I feel like the whole process of finding work and applying for jobs is so stressful for disabled people. There were days when it was terrible. You’re just sending loads and loads of messages but getting no response other than the standard email just sent by the system.

Scope’s new research found that when applying for jobs only 51% of disabled applications result in an interview compared with 69% for non-disabled applicants. Also on average, disabled people apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people when searching for a job. For me, it’s been a really difficult and disappointing experience.

Barriers to work

Behind any possible opportunity that I might get, there are always considerations that non-disabled people don’t have to concern themselves with. I’m always looking for opportunities but those opportunities need to physically work for me and there don’t seem to be many of them. I felt really supported in my last job but one of the reasons I left was that the travel was just impossible.

Support from the Jobcentre doesn’t really work for disabled people because it’s a very standard process, they’re not offering bespoke support. Sometimes you go to these places and their advice is just to do things that you’re already doing. Most of the time I made my way there for a face-to-face appointment and they would just ask, “How is your job search going?”  – just the basic questions.

The disability advisor in one Jobcentre was so good but that support wasn’t available in every Jobcentre. It just seems to be luck whether you get one. Having someone who could look at things from my point of view really helped. Sometimes, it was just having somebody to actually talk to who understood.

Attitudes can be a barrier too. Scope’s new research found that over a third (37%) of respondents who don’t feel confident in getting a job believe employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or condition.

Personally, I’ve felt quite intimidated bringing up my adjustment needs with potential employers because you just think “Well, if they find somebody who can do the typical 9-5, they’ll go for them.”

Work With Me

The latest Government figures show there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to work but are currently unemployed. I think that’s a real scandal and a real loss of potential.

That’s why I’m supporting Work With Me – a three-year initiative by Scope and Virgin Media which aims to understand and tackle the barriers disabled people face getting into and staying in work.

The campaign is inviting members of the public, employers and Government to work together to address these issues more quickly. So join me in supporting this campaign to ensure that disabled people who can and want to work aren’t denied the opportunity any longer.

Be part of making change happen, find out more on our website and share #WorkWithMe on your social media networks.

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. 

Why Chris is re-creating some of the worst things he’s experienced

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris Amor is a 27-year-old university student, studying animation. Chris has dwarfism and experiences regular harassment, making him feel excluded and dehumanised.

As part of 30 Under 30 he talks to us about challenging attitudes and putting height discrimination on the same level as other forms of discrimination. Currently, he’s working on a short animated film which aims to do exactly that.

Attitudes can be a barrier

A lot of people still think it’s socially acceptable to mock and effectively dehumanise people with dwarfism. For me, the physical side doesn’t get me down, it’s the attitudes that other people have towards it. There’s still a big stigma around dwarfism and the way we’re portrayed as freaks.

People can also be scared to talk to me because they think I’ll be easily offended. I’d just prefer people to talk to me like anyone else, not focus on my dwarfism, just treat me like a person. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me either. I just want people to not care about how tall someone is. It doesn’t define who you are, at all.

Dating is another big thing that gets to me. There’s still a big stigma about men being shorter than women or couples with extreme height difference. People tell me I should date another person with dwarfism. Again, it’s dehumanising. It’s putting body before personality. Of course I’d be happy to date a person with dwarfism, but I want to date someone for who they are not just how they look. Why should it matter if the woman is taller?

Chris sitting in front of a brick wall, with his arms folded
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

Experiencing harassment at work

I’ve worked at a local pub for a few years. At first, I mostly did night shifts and of course people are drinking, and I was specifically targeted. I’ve had people run up behind me and try to pick me up, people patting me on the head, talking to me randomly about really personal and inappropriate things. People even take photos or secretly film me, purely just to portray me as being different.

It got to a point where I had a breakdown and told my family and my managers at work about it. They were very understanding and agreed that I should do more day shifts instead. It’s a lot better. And it’s nice to be able to just get on with your job without constantly feeling paranoid.

The effect of endless harassment

Endless harassment can create paranoia. You just constantly feel paranoid if there’s someone behind you or if someone’s got their phone out, are they going to take a photo of me? And it’s the principle behind it – that they’re going to share it on social media as a joke.

Because I’ve being experiencing it for a long time it can be difficult when I’m in certain environments not to be too self-conscious. For some people, it can lead to depression and even suicide. Comments and insults can be more damaging that physical assault, certainly for me – it’s just that concept of feeling excluded from society. And it also affects my confidence when it comes to working and dating.

I’m making a film to raise awareness

A lot of films about disabled people and their lives are focused on the physical or mental restrictions that they have but my film is purely focused on the attitudes of others. Through animation, I’m re-creating some of the worst things that I’ve personally experienced and things that other people have told me, exactly from that person’s perspective. Some people might see these things as just a little joke and say you lack a sense of humour, but it’s not about that. I’m happy to have the piss taken out of me for how I am as a person, not because of how I was born.

I hope the film will raise awareness and change perceptions. I want to put heightism on the same grounds of unacceptance that racism is. And I want to challenge the dehumanising ideas about what you shouldn’t and shouldn’t do – like disabled people shouldn’t be in a relationship with a non-disabled person or you can’t do this job.

Chris arms folded, in front of a garden
Photo credit: Paul Jackson, Worcester News

How we can change attitudes

I think a lot of it’s to do with media representation. Peter Dinklage, from Game of Thrones, is one of the few actors with dwarfism who plays a role that’s not related to his height. Some of the earlier roles for people with dwarfism like Willow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they were picked for those roles because of how they look. It gives them a label and a separation in that sense. I’m not saying that actors with dwarfism can’t play those kinds of roles, but height shouldn’t limit what they can and can’t do.

I also think education is key to changing attitudes. When my film is finished, I want to send it to some film festivals and make sure it’s spread nationwide. It’s not about feeling sorry for someone. It’s about encouraging people to think “How would I feel if I was in that body and was being treated differently because of something I can’t help?”. One day I hope I can walk down the street and nobody cares about my height.

Chris is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

 

Meet Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time – Jordanne Whiley

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Jordanne Whiley is a Paralympian, eight time Grand Slam champion and Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time. She was born with osteogenesis, more commonly know as brittle bone disease.

With Rio 2016 fast approaching, Jordanne is training hard in the hopes of getting double gold. As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about how she got into tennis, role models and her other passion in life, singing.

When I was three years old, my dad took me out to Israel because he was competing in a tennis tournament. I was just going out with my mum and he was playing a match one day and I just wanted to play tennis but obviously I couldn’t. My dad’s friend gave me a racket and ball and I just started hitting it. Then it was all over Israeli news and newspapers. Basically, it all just kicked off  because I was three, in a wheelchair with my legs in plaster playing tennis.

I became professional around the time I was 16. I’d just qualified for Beijing Paralympics and I wasn’t expected to but I got the wild card. I actually qualified on my sixteenth birthday so that was a nice surprise! When I came back I quit academic studies and became a professional tennis player.

Tennis is such a great game. You have fun and the social life is great. It really helps you become comfortable with your impairment as you meet loads of different disabled people. It can really help you accept yourself.

Role Models

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have any role models to look up to. I don’t really like looking up to celebrities and people like that because I don’t know them. They could turn out to be something they’re not.

If I looked up to anyone, I’d want them to be a real person, not a celebrity. For example, I had my dad for a lot of it, he was my coach until I was 12 and both of my parents were very supportive of my career. It was kind of like just me and them for a very long time.

Some people say I’m contradicting myself because they think I’m a celebrity role model. But I don’t see myself as that. I don’t own 300 Bentleys and live in an 80 room mansion, I’m a real person. What I say and what I do is always from a real person’s point of view. I’m not interested in becoming famous, I just want to influence, help and inspire people.

Jordanne, a young disabled woman, looks determined whilst holding a tennis racket
Photo courtesy of RGK

Being comfortable in your own skin

I’m disabled and don’t look like Paris Hilton but I’m successful. It doesn’t matter who you are, what background you’re from, what shape and size you are, you can still be successful. You don’t have to look a certain way to fit into society.

Don’t dwell on things you can’t change and focus on the things you can change, like your success in your field or your attitude towards other people or yourself. I would like to help people see that.

If you listen to my story, I was bullied in school quite badly, I never grew to five foot and I don’t have nice legs. But I don’t worry about any of that because I can’t change that. When you do put that to one side and just focus on the things that matter, it’s so much better. Just focus on doing something you love. You might want to dance but you don’t think you’ve got the body to dance. If that’s what makes you happy, just go and dance. Who cares what people think?

Life outside of tennis

Monday to Friday, I train from about 10am-4pm. I get home late evening and then I’m pretty knackered to be honest! I do cook and bake a lot and if I have the time, I do grow my own vegetables. I just like doing normal, domestic stuff.

I’ve sung my whole life. There’s videos of me as a kid singing Spice Girls when I was five or six. When I was in my teens, I was obsessed with Shakira so I only used to sing her songs. As I grew up and my voice developed, it developed like Shakira’s voice! I’d really like to get into singing a bit more as I love it.

I wrote my own song about my boyfriend. For Christmas he bought me a package to go and record it professionally and put it on iTunes. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. The song is actually really good. It’s kind of similar to Lukas Graham’s “Seven Years”. It’s not mushy, it’s about a real life relationship.

Keep a look out for Jordanne’s track on iTunes.

Jordanne is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read other stories from 30 Under 30.

To find out more about stories and how they are at the heart of everything we do at Scope, visit our new Stories hub.

Featured image courtesy of The Tennis Foundation.

‘You’ve got so much stacked against you’ – #100days100stories

We first published this guest blog from Emily Birkinshaw in May 2014. Emily supports 16-24 year-old disabled people in East London to find work through Scope’s employment courses. Emily has Non Epileptic Seizures, and draws on her own experiences to support the young people. We’re republishing her story here as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories project

Emily Birkinshaw sitting in a cafe
Emily supports young disabled people to find work.

You have got so much stacked against you, if you’re a young disabled person looking for a job. Your confidence is just knocked over and over again. We see a lot of people who have reached a stage of ‘I will never work, there’s nothing for me; no-one wants me’.

Often the young people we work with are going for the same jobs that graduates are going for, because of the way the job markets have shuffled. We see a lot of people who haven’t done any work experience; there hasn’t been any careers input in their schooling. Maybe they’ve gone to a special educational needs (SEN) school, where it’s expected that they will just go into a day service.

Application forms are such a barrier – so many of our young people really struggle with application forms, they’re so complex to navigate. Another barrier is people’s perceptions. A young person may get to the interview stage of a job, and they’ll have cerebral palsy and their speech may be a bit slurred, so the job will go to the guy who doesn’t have that. Or they don’t even get to that interview stage because there are still employers who think ‘Why would I take the disabled person over somebody who’s going to be no bother?’

There are so few employers who are willing to take that chance with a young disabled person. I do a lot of work with employers, calming their fears about what disability is. Even when an employer says ‘we’ll take somebody on a placement’, they panic. They’ll say ‘we don’t have a ramp’ and I’ll be like ‘it’s OK, he’s got schizophrenia, it’s fine, he doesn’t need a ramp’.

It really frustrates me when people write off young people, saying ‘they don’t care, they don’t engage, they don’t want to do the opportunities you give them’. If you gave those opportunities to the young people I work with, they would bite your hand off!

I get really passionate about what I do, I think because I’m disabled myself, and because I’m from a very working class background. I did go to university but I was the first person in my family to go to university. I had lots of health problems going through school, so I feel really fortunate to end up in the situation I’m. I wouldn’t wish seizures on anyone, but I can accept that they happen to me and that means that I can be even better at this job – and that sort of gives my disability a purpose.

I love seeing employers changing their attitudes, and how they’re blown away by their experience. But seeing the young people grow and develop, and stand up for themselves and have some power and autonomy as disabled people, is the best thing ever.

My job is frustrating, sometimes, because you can’t change society, but to see where you are helping somebody to change their life for the better – is the best feeling in the world.

See how Scope is supporting young disabled Londoners to find work.

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Nelson Mandela on “the long walk to equality”

In 2004 Scope ran a campaign called “Time to get equal” to raise awareness of the problems and barriers faced by disabled people in their everyday lives. In support of Scope and our campaign, Nelson Mandela sent us this special message:

Nelson Mandela

This is a very special month and period in South Africa. And because the international community contributed so much to bring about the special situation we are celebrating in our country we believe that this is also a special period for the world.

We in South Africa are celebrating a decade of non-racial, non-sexist, non-discriminatory democracy. We went to the polls in our third democratic election just this past week. All of this stood in celebration of our democracy, based on the values of human dignity, the achievement of human equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.

Under the equality clause in our constitution’s bill of rights we affirm that, and I quote:

“The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

The constitution continues to affirm that no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more of the grounds mentioned above.

We have striven to give legislative and regulatory content to these founding precepts in our nation-building constitution. We have in this past decade progressed, slow as it may have been, towards living together in the acknowledgement of the basic equality and right to dignity of all human beings.

We have tried to give special emphasis to the rights of people living with disability. It is so easy to think of equality demands with reference primarily to race, colour, religion and gender; and to forget, or to relegate to secondary importance, the vast discrimination against disabled persons.

We cannot claim to have reached anywhere near to where a society should be in terms of practical equality of the disabled. We continue to try. We realise that legislation and regulations are not sufficient or the end of the long walk to equality and non-discrimination. Education, raising of awareness, conscientisation, eradication of stigmatisation: these are key elements in achieving non-discrimination against the disabled in practice and in their everyday lives.

A democracy is an order of social equality and non-discrimination. Our compatriots who are disabled challenge us in a very special way to manifest in real life those values of democracy.

It is not a question of patronising philanthropy towards disabled people. They do not need the patronage of the non-disabled. It is not for them to adapt to the dominant and dominating world of the so-called non-disabled. It is for us to adapt our understanding of a common humanity; to learn of the richness of how human life is diverse; to recognise the presence of disability in our human midst as an enrichment of our diversity.

Organisations like Scope help us to that greater understanding and I ask you to support Scope in its fight to end discrimination and to sign the equality pledge.

I thank you.