Tag Archives: Work

I used to hide my autism from employers, now I see it as a positive – End the Awkward

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.

Felix laughing with a friend

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.

You can stay up to date with everything End the Awkward on Twitter and Facebook using #EndTheAwkward or visiting Scope’s End the Awkward webpage.

“All I really wanted was to work, so I could be independent.”

Harrison is just one of thousands of young disabled adults who have struggled to find work. Here he explains about the barriers he faced on his journey to permanent employment. Donate today and support our work with young disabled people.

Have you ever felt really let down? Like there’s no hope? A year ago, that was me. Like so many disabled people, I was constantly being overlooked by potential employers. I kept applying and applying for work. But I kept missing out. At first I didn’t let it get to me. But after a while I got so stressed. I started to think there was no point.

“Employers judged me, without finding out what I could do”

I’ve always been a people person. I’m not shy, I like talking and I’m good at understanding people. I love the theatre and have done some acting and backstage work. So I knew I had lots of skills to offer. But, when employers found out about my learning disability they judged me, without first finding out what I can do. I even started one job, but they let me go with no warning. I didn’t believe in myself at all. I felt really down and useless.

Harrison with his employment advisor, Jo.

Everything changed for me when I met Jo from Scope. She encouraged me to join a work programme where I learnt about everything from how to tell an employer about my impairment to time management skills.

“When I finally got an interview with Morrisons I was so nervous”

I worked on a new CV and learnt how to fill in application forms. My confidence was really low because I’d been rejected for so many jobs. But the support I got made me realise that there are many jobs I can do, which helped improve my confidence a lot.

When I finally got an interview with Morrisons I was so nervous but I had a lot of help with my preparations. I practised and practised answering questions. When the interview day came, I remembered what I was told. And I got the job! I was so happy and excited, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew. The support I got helped me get my job at Morrisons. With your help, other young people can get the right support too, and show employers what they can do.

Harrison working on the checkout at Morrisons.

“My life changed because of the support I had”

I’ve been working at Morrisons for 10 months now. My supervisor helps me remember the things I need to ask customers, like if they have a loyalty card. He says I’ve taken to customer service like a duck to water. I know they want me to succeed here because they do everything they can to support me.

Now I’m earning my own money, I’m saving up to move out from my parents’ house into my own place. It’s great that I can see a future where that happens. I want all employers to be as supportive as mine. My life has changed because of the support I had and now every day when I go to work I feel confident and independent!

Harrison’s story shows how with the right support a young disabled person can get a new start and chance to achieve their dreams.

Donate today and help disabled people like Harrison get in to permanent, sustainable employment.

With your support we can make sure disabled people can get the right support, and show employers what they can do.

“You never have a bad day at Scope!” – National Volunteers’ Week

Volunteering with Scope led to an unexpected change of career for Lisa. As we conclude our celebrations for National Volunteers’ Week, she talks about what it’s like to be a Scope volunteer and how it changed her life.

What inspired you to become a Scope volunteer?

I was originally a customer at the Scope shop in Lincoln and was asked if I was interested in becoming a volunteer. I wanted to help with the window displays, so decided to get involved. I was nervous as I hadn’t worked in a retail environment before, but the existing volunteers were really friendly and quickly showed me the ropes.

After a little while a vacancy came up in the shop, and I took on a paid role as a Sunday manager. This progressed to me taking on extra responsibilities and around two years ago I became the shop manager.

A shop window display

How have your experiences at Scope changed your life?

I thought my career was heading in a particular direction, but both my area manager and the team at the shop encouraged me to apply for the shop manager role. That gave me the confidence to really go for it. My team are lovely and have been very supportive. They really helped me when I started in my role.

Five years ago, I would never have imagined myself doing this job, but this change has been really good for me. Volunteering at Scope helped to improve my confidence and changed my career path for the better. I’ve had an amazing experience at Scope, I don’t want it to end!

What’s been the most memorable moment of your time with Scope?

I have one almost every day! My team likes to have fun and we do things that are a bit different. For example, we took over the local museum and held a fashion show there.

The volunteers I work with are amazing. In the last couple of years, we’ve helped nearly 30 of our volunteers get in to work. We support them through their training, give them time and support, they even do mock interviews with each other during their breaks. Some local shops now come to us directly when they’re looking for new staff as they know how well we train and support our volunteers.

Scope means a lot to me and I love what I do. It’s such a positive place, you never have a bad day at Scope!

Would you recommend volunteering with Scope to others?

Definitely yes! We’re all about encouraging and supporting our volunteers, and getting them to achieve their ambitions. Volunteering with Scope gives you confidence. We’re like a family and we’re always there for each other.

Fancy giving it a go? Are you interested in becoming a Scope volunteer? More information on volunteering with Scope, and ways in which you can get involved, can be found on our volunteering pages.

A spotlight on disability employment

You won’t hear this on the news, but a couple of events taking place this month show how important disability employment is at the moment.

Disabled people still face a broad range of barriers to work – however a renewed focus on disability employment across government, the charity sector and employers, could give us reason to be hopeful.

The employment gap

Employment is an important aspect of living independently for many disabled people. While more people are working in the UK than ever before, just 46.7 per cent of disabled people are in work. This puts the disability employment gap at 34 per cent. It has hovered around this level for the last ten years.

Scope’s analysis shows that nine in 10 disabled people have worked, but only half are in work now.
Employer attitudes, inaccessible workplaces and a lack of accessible transport remain significant barriers. Other barriers include lack of effective support to enable people to enter or get back into work, and employers and disabled people not knowing about schemes such as Access to Work which pay for additional adjustments some disabled people need in the workplace, such as screen readers or taxis.

Time for change

Clearly, there is a real need for a new approach. Recent announcements from Government could indicate steps are being taken in the right direction. Scope has been campaigning for parties to commit to halving the disability employment gap. Last year, the new government took on this goal, which will mean supporting 1 million disabled people in to work.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee has just launched an inquiry in to the disability employment gap. This marks an opportunity to review support available, explore alternative options for support and hold the Government to account on their commitment to bring about real change. We will submit evidence to this inquiry, ensuring the Committee’s recommendations to Government are informed by the real experiences of disabled people.

This morning, I’m meeting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to hear about their proposals for employment support for disabled people.

Later this year, the Government will also publish a White Paper on disability, health and employment.

We are calling for:

  • Employment support that is specialist, and tailored to individual needs
  • Investment in schemes like Access to Work
  • Employers to offer flexible, modern workplaces

Harrison’s story:

Tell us about your experiences

Are you a disabled person looking for work?

Or, if you are working:

  • Have you asked your employer for a workplace adjustment?
  • Have you used the Access to Work scheme?

We would love to hear from you. Please contact stories@scope.org.uk

15 ways to search for jobs using social media

Future Ambitions is a brand new service aimed at supporting young disabled people aged 16 to 25 in Hackney, Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets into long-term sustainable employment. Here are their tips to search for jobs online and using social media:

1) Ask your friends
Post a simple, polite, professional status asking if anyone knows of a place that is hiring. You may even want to be a more specific about your needs. Ask if anyone knows of an open position in the area you want to work in. Chances are that at least one person knows about a potential job opportunity. Even better, you may have someone ask for an interview right then and there!

2) Search
Put jobs into the Google or a company’s search box and see what comes up!

3) Like company Facebook pages
What are your interests? Like pages of companies you’d like to work for. They will often post their jobs on Facebook as it’s cheaper than traditional advertising.

4) Follow companies on Twitter
Follow companies you might want to work for. They may post links to their jobs on their Twitter feeds.

5) Search hashtags
#job is a good way to see jobs posted on Twitter or Facebook, you might need to narrow down the search to UK or local area only #job

It’s best to search Twitter at times when local companies would be posting jobs, for example, 9am -5pm.

6) Job search on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is like an online CV so follow the same rules:
• Be clear with your objectives in your personal profile
• List your most recent job or training first
• Be professional
• Be honest

8) Follow companies on LinkedIn
You can also follow a company on LinkedIn, meaning all the jobs they advertise come up in your news feed.

9) Be consistent online
Use your real name on social media, keep a consistent tone and think of it as your personal empire. Of course your Facebook ‘About’ will be different from your LinkedIn profile description. If you keep the general tone similar, you’ll look in control.

10) Google yourself
A bit obvious this one, but don’t just check the first page. Beady-eyed employers will go a few pages back.

11) Request your Twitter archive
Go into your Settings. Click the Account tab. You can find how to request an archive containing all the tweets you’ve ever sent. Check over the last two years. Use programs like Tweet Eraser to search for the offending tweets.

12) Find hidden vacancies
Many employers will fill vacancies by word-of-mouth, headhunting or recruiting internally. Knowing how to get yourself in contention for these roles could give you a major boost in finding your next role.

13) Use your network
Using your network is the other main way to find hidden positions. Past employers, colleagues, friends, family and just about anyone you meet can form your network. Serious jobseekers treat even the most casual of meetings as a potential job lead.

14) Make prospective calls
Even if an employer doesn’t have any current vacancies, they may be willing to create a position if an exceptional applicant comes along. Contact companies to ask if they have any opportunities for somebody with your skills. Call the manager of the department you’re looking to work in but avoid busy times. Follow up with an email, thanking them for their time and attach a copy of your CV.

15) Contact us
Future Ambitions is supported by the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation. For more information, call 07807 799 928 or email future@scope.org.uk

“I didn’t chop my own arm off!” – tales of a disabled chef #EndTheAwkward

Guest post from Ronnie Murray, who is group head chef at Mark Hix’s London restaurants and has a shortened left arm. He’s backing Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, and stars in our new awkward moments film.

I always knew I wanted to be a chef, but it wasn’t so rock ‘n’ roll 20 years ago. Back then chefs were rarely seen, and definitely not heard! It was seen as a bit of a drop-out’s career, but it was all I ever wanted to do.

As a teenager, I wrote a letter to Michael Caines, a very famous Michelin-starred chef. He had lost his arm in a car accident just a year before I was getting into the kitchen.

I went and worked with him for a week, and had a fantastic time. And I realised that if Michael can earn a Michelin star, then damn sure I could get off my backside and do it as well!

Disability and me

Man behind bar holding a knife
Ronnie Murray on the set of our awkward moments film

I’ve never referred to my arm as a disability, because it doesn’t really set me back with anything. I’ve only discovered two things I can’t do – ride a motorbike, and play golf! It certainly hasn’t ever held me back in the kitchen.

But being described as a ‘disabled chef’ doesn’t bother me. I want to inspire people through good cooking and great food, but if I can also inspire a disabled person who maybe thinks they can’t be a chef, that’s all the better.

How I approach awkwardness

I’ve never really noticed too much awkwardness in the kitchen. No one in my kitchen would look at me differently from anyone else, because they know me. First encounters can be awkward, but it always wears off quickly.

But I have had fun with a few awkward moments – like where someone will say, ‘Do you need a hand…?’ and then get embarrassed.

A barman here said to me last week, ‘They’re biting my arm off for these canapés…’ I said, ‘You can’t say that to me, that’s out of line!’ I’ll always reel it in back quickly though. I’d never leave anyone hanging.

A lot of it is about your own presence and attitude. Most people are much more comfortable once you’ve shown them there’s nothing to be embarrassed about – just be confident, and they’ll take their cue from you.

Ending the awkward

It’s a bit of a sad state of affairs that the issue of awkwardness around disability still needs to be raised. I think we’re much better than we were, but there’s still more to do.

I made a YouTube cooking demo for Vice last year. The golden rule of YouTube is ‘never read the comments’ – so of course the first thing I did was look at all the comments.

Most of them were positive and about the food, but there were also some cheap jokes about the arm. It doesn’t really bother me, but it’s very narrow-minded.

We’ve moved a long way as a community over the past few years, though, and I think that’s important. Programmes like The Last Leg are a fantastic thing, and the 2012 Paralympics almost got more interest than the rest of the Olympics.

To overcome awkwardness, all I think you need to do is treat each disabled person as an individual, and remember there’s nothing to be scared of. After all, the worst that can happen is an awkward moment.

Check out Ronnie’s awkward moments film and read more awkward storiesDo you have an awkward story to share? Submit your awkward stories, and we’ll publish our favourites on our blog and social media. 

Find out more about how Scope is ending the awkward this summer.

Celebrating First Impressions, First Experiences at the Barbican Conservatory

On Monday night, we were pleased to welcome back 22 alumni from the First Impressions, First Experiences pre-employment training programme for a celebration event at the Barbican Conservatory.

Held in the beautiful tropical garden that is situated in the heart of the concrete jungle of the Barbican Centre, guests were welcomed to enjoy drinks and an assortment of canapés amongst the tropical flowers and trailing plants, under the huge glass roof of the conservatory.

The programme, which for the last four years has been funded by the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, was devised to support young disabled people who were not currently in employment, education or training. These young people were provided with a structured programme followed by additional weeks of tailored, one-to-one support. The aim was to increase their confidence and independence and help them to develop important skills to make life-changing career decisions, ensuring that they left the programme feeling career-ready.

The secret garden party was a way to celebrate the success of the programme, and highlight some key achievements that the young people have made.
We were so pleased to be joined by Michelle Mendelsson, a Trustee of the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, who welcomed guests, spoke about the success of the programme and seeing such brilliant results, such as the fact that 74% of young people are moving or have moved into work, further training and volunteering.

Comedian Alex Brooker spoke to the audience in his first ever appearance as a Scope Ambassador, and shared the importance, as he saw it, of building confidence in young disabled people, and the amazing way that the project had achieved this. He then introduced the two key speakers on the evening, Taylor and Felix, two young people who went through the programme, and whom Alex Brooker has since been mentoring in public speaking in preparation for the event.

It was truly inspirational to hear them speak about how the programme has affected their lives – Taylor spoke about the way that the programme had helped her get voluntary work at the Together! 2014 Disability Film Festival, and pursue her dream of working in film and television, while Felix shared the importance that the sense of community created by First Impressions, First Experiences has brought to him and his peers.

At the end of the evening, the young people collected a goody-bag of treats including notebooks, pens and a book on interview techniques, ‘Why You?’ by James Reed, kindly donated by the author.

Thank you so much to the Credit Suisse EMEA foundation for not only hosting and funding the event which gave the young people a chance to come together again, but also for supporting the programme over the last four years, which has successfully seen 101 participants through its doors. With the help of programmes such as this, Scope can get closer to seeing the employment gap halved by 2020.

A driver wouldn’t let me on the bus. When I complained, they offered me a job – #100days100stories

Guest post by Jean from London. Jean has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a painful condition which means she is prone to muscle tears and dislocated joints. She uses a wheelchair most of the time. Jean is an active campaigner for disability rights. She is sharing her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

At the beginning of 2013, I had to put a complaint in to a London bus company because a driver refused to deploy the ramp and let me on.

Instead of dismissing my complaint, the company actually asked me to go in and speak to the management about how disabled passengers should be treated.

Then they asked me to go in again and speak to the bus drivers – and after a couple of months they said, “How would you feel about us paying you for it?”

Jean holding the catBefore that, I hadn’t been able to work for seven years. Part of the time this was because I was unwell, but for a lot of the time it was because employers weren’t prepared to support my needs or make adaptations.

A couple of places I applied even offered to give me an interview, but then withdrew the offer because their offices weren’t wheelchair accessible. It was ridiculous.

Getting support

My new bosses have been really supportive, even offering to contribute towards a new reclining wheelchair, which I will need at work.

However, when I applied for funding from Access to Work for a support worker and a better wheelchair, I was rejected.

One of their reasons was that I wouldn’t be working enough hours, and would still need to claim benefits. But how am I supposed to build up my hours, and start to come off benefits, without the right level of support and equipment?

At the moment, my fiancé has to take me to work and act as my carer. It is difficult – we find it hard to balance his being my partner and being my employee. When he doesn’t do things how I want them, it feels very hard to tell him so.

Add in his own health issues, and wanting to pursue his own interests which have to constantly be put on a back burner, and it causes conflict in our private time.

I felt this was unfair so I appealed, and with the help of my MP I was successful in getting funding. I’m now in the process of finding a support worker, and Access to Work also paid towards the cost of the wheelchair and a small travel allowance.

My work

I’ve looked at how the company views and treats disabled passengers, and made some recommendations for improvements.

I’ve also run disability awareness training for bus drivers. We simulate various impairments – such as being blind or mobility impaired – and ask staff to try to move around inside the bus while it is in motion. It demonstrates how difficult travelling can be for disabled passengers.

I go to conferences and events, and we do a lot of work with mental health and learning disability charities.

One thing I’ve noticed is that disabled people will come and speak to me because they see me in a wheelchair. The fact that I have an understanding of what their situation might be seems to make a big difference.

My work is challenging, fun and rewarding, and it brings confidence and self-worth. I feel like I’m contributing something and making an improvement. Even though the majority of my income is still benefit-based, I am hoping that I can slowly build up my hours.

My employers saw something in me and built a new role around my abilities, and are investing quite heavily in me to ensure I have everything I need to fulfil my potential. I love it.

Read the rest of the stories in our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Being disabled gives me a unique insight which helps me at work – #100days100stories

Emma Satyamurti has this week been made a partner at the law firm Leigh Day. She tells her story about why she pursued a career in a law and being one of too few disabled role models in the legal sector. She shares her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign. 

I decided to become a lawyer because I wanted to do work that would be interesting and intellectually challenging, but which would contribute, in however small a way, to making the world a better place.

It was a leap of faith, my background had nothing to do with the law. I had studied Classics at university and had never been anywhere near a legal textbook.

Emma looking at the camera for a press photo

I was lucky enough to get a couple of work placements with law firms, and a place at law school where I obtained the qualifications I needed to become a solicitor. But I was still undecided about what kind of law I should go for.

During my training contract, which is the two year period of ‘on the job’ training you have to do before you can qualify as a solicitor, I spent six months in an employment department, I realised then that this was the area of law I wanted to specialise in when I qualified.

I saw at firsthand how important work, and feeling valued at work, is to people’s well-being and self-esteem, and how damaging it can be when things go wrong.

I have been an employment lawyer for over 10 years now, acting almost exclusively for employees.

I have been able to help clients facing a wide range of issues and problems including being sacked unfairly, suffering bullying from line managers, and being treated badly for blowing the whistle.

Over the years, I have seen how one particular form of mistreatment can have an especially devastating impact – discrimination.

There is something about being singled out for negative treatment because of some aspect of who you are, such as your race or your gender, that can cut to the heart of a person’s equilibrium and sense of self.

As a disabled person myself, I understand this from a personal, as well as a professional, point of view.

While I have been lucky enough not to experience discrimination directly, I know what it feels like to be ‘different’ and to worry that I am not seen as ‘normal.’

For example, when I meet a client for the first time, I am acutely aware that they are probably not expecting to be greeted by a four-foot tall solicitor with mobility issues.

I have never encountered any kind of adverse reaction, but I am aware of taking a (metaphorical) deep breath before entering the reception area, and of consciously projecting a confident and relaxed persona to put the client at ease.

I never know what the client is actually making of my appearance and whether there is any need to reassure them or not, but this sense of never quite knowing how one is received by others is perhaps one of the complexities of being ‘different’.

While this can feel uncomfortable, I think it is a strength and means that I can draw on more than legal knowledge in my work with clients.

Being happy at work really matters, and I feel very lucky that my own work enables me to help people get closer to that goal.

I have in the last very few days been made a partner at Leigh Day, and I am looking forward very much to the enhanced scope this will bring to further develop that work.

Find out more about our 100 days, 100 stories campaign and read the rest of the stories so far.

Why I believe in inclusive education – #100days100stories

Guest post from Mima from London, who took part in our First Impressions, First Experiences employment programme and is now aiming for university. Mima uses an electric wheelchair, and types on an iPad to communicate.

When Mima was in secondary school she spent some time at a special school. The lessons at the school were not at the right level for her, and she’s since developed a strong belief that disabled and non-disabled students should learn together whenever possible. Here, she shares her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

I’m hoping to go to university to study sociology and religious studies. I loved sociology when I did it at A-level – you can really look into society and see how it works. I’m especially interested in disabled people’s rights and education.

Inclusive education

I have a very strong belief in inclusive education. I went to a mainstream primary school, but then I went to a special school between the ages of 11 and 14.

It wasn’t right for me at all. I wanted to learn and do my exams, and we were singing ‘Ten Green Bottles!’ I wasn’t learning anything.

When I was 14, I moved to a mainstream school. It was much better – I could do my exams as normal, and I was much happier. I loved it even then, but now I appreciate it even more. My year group was a family unit to me – some of my best friends are from school.

I worked with the same personal assistant at school for seven years, and I did A-levels in psychology and sociology.

I tried university from January to July, but it didn’t work out. The atmosphere wasn’t a good place to learn, and to be honest I was quite lonely. There were people I thought were friends, but they weren’t.

After the summer holidays I decided not to go back. I felt depressed, my confidence was quite low. I was doubting myself quite a lot after uni. It was the biggest disappointment of my life.

First Impressions

Young disabled woman working at a desk
Mima at work at Scope’s offices

My career advisor told me about an employability course called First Impressions, First Experiences. I started in September 2014.

We learnt how to present ourselves; how to prepare for interviews. We did mock interviews, which were quite intimidating – I failed my first interview, but I passed my second! I feel much more confident for job interviews in the future.

The most important thing was making a great group of friends. They are my best mates. We still talk nearly every day on Facebook.

I learnt to be more self-confident. I feel more empowered as a young disabled woman, and it feels awesome!

As part of the course, I also went on placement. I went on a work placement at Scope for three weeks in their campaigns department. I learnt that there’s so much that goes into a campaign – so many little things – and that now it’s much quicker to get messages out there via social media. I designed my own campaign on inclusive education.

I’m volunteering at my old special school now. I want to work in special educational needs, as a teacher. I want to inspire the kids. I want them to know they can make the same journey as me.

Find out more about 100 days, 100 stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.