Abbi was born with a genetic bone disease called osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as ‘OI’ or brittle bones. In this blog, she talks about some of her own experiences and what she thinks needs to be done to support disabled people in and out of work.
I was very lucky to get a job straight out of university. I work in a large advertising agency in London which can afford things like a wheelchair accessible office, ergonomic furniture and any software I might need. My physical access to my office is faultless, but employing disabled people isn’t just about building ramps.
Having the confidence to ask for what you need
When I started my job, I was never given the opportunity to explain what my impairments are and what effect they have on my life. As a junior employee, I didn’t feel comfortable asking for that conversation.
After a year of working 10 to 12 hours a day, five days a week, when I could no longer disguise my illnesses my employer didn’t know how to respond. I ended up having to take an entire month off work for reasons which could have been avoided had I felt comfortable explaining my conditions, and asking for a little flexibility, earlier on.
My agency is now working to make changes to my role but it’s been a real knock to my confidence in the workplace and has had a real effect on my mental health.
In my experience, many disabled people at the moment have a real fear of appearing as a financial burden to employers. That’s wrong, but it’s a position with which I can only empathise.
Everyday Equality by 2022
We live in an increasingly technological world, yet many employers consider employment to mean being physically present in a place of work, nine to five, five days a week. That’s something that for many disabled people is simply not possible. It’s something that I’m not going to be able to maintain forever and it’s not necessary to do a good job.
The key is flexibility. We need to create a culture in which disabled people feel confident asking employers and potential employers for what extra flexibility they need to do a good job. Whether that’s working four days a week, reduced hours, working from home or just taking a lie down once a day, a little flexibility can make all the difference for disabled people, especially those with fluctuating conditions.
Tell us what would help to improve your work opportunities
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