It shouldn’t be so hard for disabled people to get jobs

"Disabled people want to work"

Anne Hayes

Anne Hayes, 26, is a freelance writer. She loves animals, and writing books, poetry and articles which she hopes are thought provoking...!

I have Tracheo Oesophageal Fistula, Tracheo Atresia, Varter’s Syndrome and mild Cerebral Palsy. I also have a degree, LAMDA Teachers’ Diploma and a lifetime working with animals on the family farm. But sadly none of this is enough to cancel out my health problems, or qualify me for a job.

Despite being mostly unable to work, I am facing benefit cuts. I say ‘mostly’ because there are some jobs I could do. I don’t really see myself as disabled or let my disabilities interfere with my life. But when I go to the Job Centre, they always try and match me with jobs they think I should be able to manage, like desk jobs, but can’t, due to some aspect of my condition that they have not considered, like my horrendous migraines as a result of other medication.

It’s ironic that the cerebral palsy, the part of my condition which is immediately noticeable, is actually the one that affects me least. Except when I’m trying to get a job, when the obvious nature of the disability means I often fail at the interview stage. At university, I went for a job as a farm relief worker and was disappointed when it was given to an able bodied person with less experience than me. Recently, I applied for a job in a care home – same result, despite having been full time carer to my grandfather until he died. The patronising things people say infuriate me. A friend of mine in a wheelchair who applied for a job as a chef was told ‘you’d have to be able to cook on your own’.

I guess I should count myself lucky, though: At least people can see that I’m disabled. For friends of mine with mental health issues, the situation is worse. These are unseen disabilities. They’re rightfully on benefits or in part time work, but they still get asked why.

Because I can’t get a job, I’m submitted to humiliating tests to prove I’m eligible for benefits. But the truth is, health is not a box ticking exercise. When I am well, yes, I could work, when I am not, I can barely get out of bed and have to reluctantly rely on my patient and loving fiance. There should be more recognition by those with power over such forms and assessments that life is never black and white, particularly for the disabled.

The government should consider the reality of the disabilities listed in the forms. People with depression get more depressed at the thought of having to cope with these forms and deadlines, those with anxiety disorders get more anxious. I panic about them, and I don’t even have an anxiety disorder, and only moderate depression.

It is a frightening and worrying time for people like me, knowing we may lose our benefits. Why should we have to be dependent on our parents? There are supposed to be reasonable adaptations in the workplace, but it seems very hard to make them appear. I admit, in my case, it would be very hard to have a toilet adjoining the room where I was working, but that is what it would take to get me back to work in a standard job. I have days when I move from bed to bathroom to bed all day. I can’t do anything else.

Luckily, I have recently had two books accepted for publication. I have emailed the publishers, and spoken to them on the phone. I am meeting one in person to discuss edits next month. I do wonder what the reception will be when I walk in through the door. Will my disability eclipse all prior knowledge of me, or will I be ranked not as ‘author’, but ‘disabled author’?

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015