By Anita Devi
In this blog, I aim to introduce you to three young people, who have disabilities and have much to offer the world as adults, if we just look at things a bit differently!
NB: Whilst, the names of individuals involved have been changed, their stories remain true.
#1 Meet Sonia (pseudonym):
Sonia can type, Sonia has qualifications, Sonia is bright and has an agile mind.
‘She can’t get a job,’ they said.
Sonia types with her feet, she has cerebral palsy. Sonia is digitally literate. She has a Level 2 qualification and is about to leave college. She able to undertake a desk job; if only someone would give her an opportunity and the encouragement to try.
I spoke to some employers and entrepreneurs about Sonia as a hypothetical case study. My questions were:
- What would you want to see on Sonia’s application / CV?
- What reasonable adjustments would you implement at recruitment, interview & induction stage to include her?
- If someone has that sort of drive to overcome an adapt in such a big way makes me want them on my team right away.
- Wow! I personally would think what a wonderful addition to the team.
- Being adaptive to the needs of disability isn’t always straight forward but once you have a workflow that fits in place it works just fine.
- I would like to see all the good stuff they can do to add value to the team first and foremost. Then something honest about any issues they might have/special requirements. And then perhaps something about how they’ve dealt with the challenges life has thrown at them and it’s made them extra valuable (something positive, but not too long and drawn out).
- I personally would be in awe and would want to interview them ASAP, but I know not everyone would think like that.
There were also some concerns raised too:
- The part that makes me nervous is, what if they were given an interview and were unsuccessful. Would this be perceived as discrimination?
- We would need to think about how we broach the subject of time off for medical appointments etc. Of course, they need to go, and we would do our best to adapt. However, it is something we would need to consider.
- We would need to research how we could access on-going specialist input to train our other team members, to support them too?
A final point made the employers / entrepreneurs in this dialogue:
“Great questions, really got us thinking …”
#2 Meet Sam (pseudonym):
Sam can’t speak, he can’t read either. Sam needs routine.
“Let’s see what you can do”, they said.
Sam now works one day a week, in a company as a Secure Information Officer. What he does is shred highly sensitive papers. The work is routine, and highly valuable to the employer. Sam feels part of the team. He enjoys going into work. It is the highlight of his week and he has found ways to communicate with colleagues. Annually, he attends a work social. Being there, with other matters to Sam.
#3 Meet Alpha (pseudonym):
Alpha is at college. He has dyspraxia. He almost didn’t make it to college!
This is what his mother had to say,
“When Alpha was in primary and secondary school, I put so much pressure on him to do his mobility exercises. I gave up work, just to make sure I could be with him. I also wanted the school to provide a lot of different support interventions and resources in place. This just made Alpha switch off. He resented school. I thought it was because they weren’t helping him, or he found it hard. It wasn’t – he wanted me to give him space to find his own answers. When I stepped back, which wasn’t easy. When I stepped back, and let Alpha say more about what he wanted or what helped him, he improved. Our relationship and the stress at home also got better. To be honest, I felt a bit redundant. Every mum just wants to protect their child. More so, when they have special needs or a disability. But sometimes, you have to let go and like the saying goes, less is more! He didn’t need every intervention, just the things that supported him most. I had to learn to listen and not always put forward what I thought he needed. He was hard.
I didn’t think Alpha would ever go to work, but I do now. He can solve problems. It takes him time … but he finds his way, if I give him space.”
Three very different scenarios. Preparing for Adulthood is a major part of the SEND Reforms in England (2011-2018). However, we have a long way to making this a reality. We all have a part to play in changing perceptions, asking the right questions, creating opportunities and giving young people the space to flourish, for themselves and by themselves.
#TeamADL are keen for young people and adults with disabilities to thrive. This is why we are working with a range of stakeholders to change and improve opportunities. It is not an easy journey and the #SENDcareers project, together with our Wiki Succeed digital advocacy access tool and multi-agency response team are still in the early stages of development. We, however, have BiG dreams! Our drive is to create and build sustainable inclusion. So, this is our question to you: How will you journey with us?
Do get in touch to find out how you can get involved … there is scope for everyone to contribute and make a difference.
Further reading: SEND Gatsby Benchmark Toolkit (2018)
About Anita Devi
Anita has had an extensive career in education. Her why is based around the ‘joy of learning’. As such, she focuses on what enables learners and what hinders them and more importantly, what can she do to improve the system. Amongst many other roles, Anita leads #TeamADL
To find out more visit www.AnitaDevi.com