Imagine you have been locked up in a box with holes for your feet and a grill in front of your face – with a kind of fliptop lid in front of that which can only be operated from the outside (and your hands are locked inside your box). Something tells me you won’t be extremely happy for very long.
Especially when you realise you have no control on who opens your lid, how long they open it for, or even why they open it. As for wondering what they are going to do when they have got your lid open – don’t bother – chances are you will end up not wanting to know. You needn’t bother asking for help either because nobody will give you the correct sort of help because they all have their own ideas about the “best” way to help you – and you are the last person they are going to listen to.
Now imagine you have somehow broken out of that box and your biggest wish is to stop anybody else being trapped in the same box – but everywhere you look you see people who are trapped in similar boxes through no fault of their own.
It might have been difficult for you to imagine being in that metaphorical box I mentioned above – especially if you are one of the lucky people who have sailed through life without a problem thus far. However, that box was all to real for me when I was growing up.
This has left me with a not inconsiderable amount of anger as well as a real passion for trying to educate people about the challenges I (and other people like me) face.
However, I am starting to realise that anger and passion are not really enough. Nor is the idea of trying to rely on “corporate” organisations and charities to do the job for me.
What really needs to happen is for people who have no personal experience of the challenges I face to play their part when it comes to highlighting the issues when they are pointed out.
My mantra (for want of a better description) is “Society says I am the Disabled one – I say it is those who have just entered my airspace who are the disabled ones – I have had a lifetime experience of my sight problem – they haven’t”.
I know I cannot expect people to know the unknowable – however – there are simple things everybody can do to make my life easier. Truly listening to my complaints is one thing (although – if I complain it is already too late). Taking time to ensure I can take part in your activities is another thing you can do – it might be something as simple as printing your information or instructions two font sizes bigger than you would usually do for everybody.
The best thing though is to let me speak my mind without immediately thinking our conversation will result in you having to demolish the building you are sitting in and going in for a total rebuild – when all that is needed is a slightly different lighting setup or even some curtains.
On the “UnEqual Opportunities” Questionnaire which is sent with Application Form from large organisations looking for employees there is a question which I think should be asked at the interview.
No – not the one about whether or you are Disabled. I mean the one about “Reasonable Adjustments” which you may require for either the interview or your job. Without access to a crystal ball – or prior knowledge of the location of the interview (and the surrounding area) – I cannot make a proper judgement regarding accessibility issues.
Maybe we should have a proper mix of able-bodied and Disabled people in a panel for every job interview so the above question is rendered obsolete.
Otherwise – there will be queues of people who feel rejected and ignored through no fault of their own. This will just lead to more negative emotions when what we really need are positive ones.