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See the ability, not the disability

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:00pm

Employment Opportunities invited me to the Changing Lives Awards at the House of Lords. I was so excited. My invitation said ‘Evening wear only’ so I threw on my bright yellow jacket and off I went, feeling like a traffic light. Cute doggy in tow, of course. The venue was next to the Thames, there was a beautiful view of the London Eye and surrounding parliament buildings, all lit up. There were sparkly chandliers hanging from the ceiling and plenty of trays coming around with wine and canapés. Yum.

Employment Opportunities have helped lots of deaf people get jobs across numerous sectors and at different levels. They aim to change lives through employment. Their vision is of a society where the full potential of people with disabilities is recognised in every workplace. This is the second year they have held the Changing Lives Awards, which recognise employers and individuals who share their vision, and celebrate individuals with disabilities who have overcome barriers into employment. They want organisations to work with them to promote inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

The event was hosted by Lord Archie Kirkwood. Two hundred people attended and I spoke to some of the nominees as well as Employment Opportunities staff. My lipreading skills were well tested by Bryn Roberts who hailed from Australia. He’s the EOpps Employer Development Officer. His dog sounded almost as naughty as Smudge, playing with squeaky toys at 3am! Of course, Smudge got lots of attention.

I had a personal interest as they helped me to secure my first senior finance position after I graduated from university, preparing me for interview, advising me on CV preparation and interview techniques, mentoring me and overall (and most importantly) giving me the confidence in my abilities which came across in the interview.

It’s so demoralising when you meet a potential employer and they haven’t adjusted the recruitment process for you. Or they don’t make the effort to make adjustments in the interview. Isn’t the non-disabled person nervous enough at interviews? Interviews are like pulling teeth. No-one enjoys them. Preparation is the key to a good interview and Employment Opportunities helps people to do that well. They not only work with interviewees, they also work with employers and attend careers fairs across the country. They deliver training on reasonable adjustments, disability awareness, and offer mentoring support as well as pre- and post-employment support. They offer a graduate programme in conjunction with employers such as Barclays, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and the Civil Service.

I think Employment Opportunities should be given an award themselves, for the super work they are doing. Making employers see the ability, not the disability. Helping disabled people to lead fulfilling lives.

Making a difference - a REAL one.

Clap clap clap.

      
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