By Nicola Golding
Originally published in Society Matters magazine, summer 2018 edition. Read it here.
Hi, I’m Nic. A cat-loving, tea-drinking digital project support assistant with cerebral palsy and a walking frame called Ivy. I also have a first-class honours degree, a blog, and a YouTube channel. It is thanks to the blog and YouTube channel that I was featured in the second series of Employable Me on BBC Two.
By the time the TV crew reached out to me, it was over five years since I’d finished university and I still hadn’t had a proper job, only a 12-week internship and some freelance work.
As much as I hate to admit it, I still don’t really know why it took me so long to finally find employment. Of course, my disability isn’t the only reason, but I don’t think it helped. It actually took me a long time to admit that it might even be a factor.
Any employers out there reading this might not think disability would impact on who they chose to hire, and on the surface, it probably wouldn’t. However, it could happen without you even realising. I think it’s something we all (myself included) need to be mindful of.
Still not convinced?
Imagine that I turn up at your office with my walking frame for a job interview. What would catch your attention more; the frame or me?
Imagine, before we even sit down to chat, that I’ve already struggled to get through doorways and dropped all of my stuff, which you had to pick up for me because I can’t bend down easily. Could you put all of this out of your mind and properly focus on my answers to your questions?
It’s fine if the answer is no. I, as a disabled person, am giving you permission to admit you’d feel these things. All I ask in return is that you share them with me so I can try to help you relax.
My mind will be all over the place as well, except while you’re probably thinking ‘there’s no way she’s going to be able to work in this building; what if she falls over’ I’m thinking ‘how am I going to convince them that I don’t care about the building, I just care about the job’.
Employers are often afraid to ask interviewees about their disabilities because of discrimination. But is it actually discrimination to not give someone the chance to talk about their own needs and abilities as early on in the recruitment process as possible? I don’t know for sure, but it would certainly help if we did.
I’ve been to several interviews where I’ve asked the interviewer directly if they wanted to ask anything about my disability. Nearly all of them said no. This feels like a massive punch in the gut.
Everyone always has questions. I have about a million questions I want to ask every other disabled person I meet. It’s perfectly normal to be curious. I’m instantly unsettled by anyone who claims not to be.
I have a full-time job now. I get Access to Work funding to pay for taxis to and from work. I have a custom built chair to fit me because I’m only 4ft 10’, and a headset plugged into my desk phone. Sure, people help me open doors, and they bring cups of tea to my desk for me, but essentially I just do my job like everyone else.
You can keep up with Nicola’s blog View From a Walking Frame or on Twitter @NicolaG01