A Simple Idea, A Huge Help

Some of you may already know about the Google “doodles”, those renditions of the Google logo on its home page that change from time to time to celebrate great people, works of art, inventions, notable anniversaries and other occasions.  Sometimes the doodle is interactive, containing a small video or game to play but most of the time it is a temporary image which if clicked links to more details of the occasion it has been created to celebrate.

Today’s doodle is an image of a tactile pavement, as seen in cities and towns the world over.  Whilst these areas of paving can be horrendous for wheelchair users, they are an essential tool in safe navigation by blind and partially sighted people and there’s an interesting story behind them.


The inventor of these paving slabs, Japanese man Seiichi Miyake, found out a close friend was losing their ability to see clearly and decided to try and help.  Using his own finances he started development on what he named the Tenji block in 1965, completing development and introducing the blocks in 1967 outside a school for the blind in Japan.

Many people will now be familiar with the “knobbly” or “bumpy” blocks on the approach to road crossings or at railway platforms but there have been other designs used to denote various hazards and to guide blind and partially sighted people in particular directions.

These blocks are a simple idea that became hugely successful as they can be felt either with a cane or through the feet.

Turning the Tables – Employing Disabled People

This post on the Same Difference blog prompted some thoughts on the subject of employing disabled people.  It can be nerve wracking for anyone going through the whole job hunting process – updating your CV, applying for a job, writing the perfect cover letter and then, if you’re lucky, going to an interview.

For a person with a disability this can be even more worrying.  Not only are you in competition with the other applicants, you must also get past any prejudices and worries and pre-conceived ideas that the potential employer may have.  The employer may believe for example that a disabled person is likely to take lots of time off because of illness or for medical appointments.  If the role applied for is customer facing the employer may worry about what customers will think.

There are many other ideas that may, in the employers mind, put up barriers to employing the disabled person.  It may seem to be the easier option to employ an able-bodied person instead, even if their skills or experience are less than the disabled person.

Preparing for the interview is key to dealing with this.  Of course, it is always important to prepare for an interview.  Research the company or organisation, find out all you can about them, be prepared to answer questions about them – the employer will be looking for someone who has taken an interest.  In addition have some questions ready to fire back.  Has the company recently won a large contract or opened new premises?  Are they doing something new or interesting?  Mention it and probe into the details.  Not only does this show you have done some research and are interested but it also turns the interview into a 2-way conversation rather than a question and answer session.

That is standard interview preparation advice.  For the disabled person you could also prepare some information about your disability.  You don’t need to give your entire medical history but letting the employer know what effects your disability has on your day-to-day life and what adjustments might be needed in order for you to be effective in the role can be useful and gives you the chance to present your disability in a positive way and counter any doubts that the employer might have.

Let’s take a look at one of the most common worries employers have about taking on disabled staff, and some of the positive arguments:

“Disabled people need lots of time off, this costs money”

Sure, disabled people may need time off from time to time.  Sometimes we have  appointments for assessments, treatments and regular check ups.  But this also applies to able-bodied people.
Some people see disabled people as being ill simply because they have a disability.  This is quite common but untrue.  We do get ill, but we are not ill constantly.
Disabled people are more likely to come to work even if they are ill.  There can be a feeling that we have to work harder and better than our able-bodied colleagues in order to prove ourselves.
Following on from the above, disabled people are less likely to take time off for common problems that see able-bodied people staying at home.  Because we’re often used to pain, side effects of medications and struggling with every day tasks we are able to cope with back pain, headaches, feelings of nausea etc.

See how the negative can be turned around?  If nothing else, see the interview as a chance to educate and maybe, just maybe, change someone’s view.

Service Call – A Great Idea

Great Idea – If People Know About It

DMUK Member Dan McIntyre Takes A Look At ServiceCall

ServiceCall is a system which allows disabled people to summon help
when needed, for example when visiting a petrol station.  It was developed and manufactured and is
marketed by Autochair Ltd, a supplier of various motoring-related mobility
products such as wheelchair hoists, person lifts and swivelling car seats.

The system is quite simple and consists of an infrared transmitter
which the user carries in their car.  On
arrival at a petrol station that uses the system the user points their
transmitter at the receiver which is usually mounted in the cashiers area in a
prominent location and presses the Call button.
This activates a beeper and flashing strobe light at the receiver.  The cashier or assistant then comes and
assists you.  This is more discreet than
the usual sounding of a horn or flashing of lights.

At time of writing the transmitter costs £14.95 which includes postage
and packaging and the receiver (which the relevant company pays for and
installs) costs £335 excluding VAT.
ServiceCall can be used at locations other than petrol stations where
assistance might be needed.  I have seen
it installed in banks and chemists, though how much use it gets there I do not

I have been using the system since late 2006 and have had mixed
experiences.  For the most part petrol
station staff are trained quite well and respond quickly and politely when

One of the more interesting experiences I have had was at the Tesco
supermarket in Batley on a Saturday in 2007.
I had pulled up needing fuel and used the ServiceCall transmitter as
usual.  The receiver had beeped and
flashed and the young lady working inside had looked at it, reset it and
ignored it.  I waited a few minutes
thinking she may have been busy and come out when she could.  After this I used the transmitter again and
again the receiver beeped and flashed, was reset and ignored.  I was now worried that I wouldn’t be able to
get any fuel.

On my third attempt the young lady inside reset the receiver again and
looked out of the window, at which point I flashed my lights and she came out
to the car.

Once I had explained to her what the problem was she apologised and
replied that she hadn’t been told what the beeping was and just kept resetting
it.  When I asked her about filling the
car she replied that she was 16 and didn’t know how to use a petrol pump.

Her colleague in the shop was busy so she was unable to assist.  I was then surprised when a young lad who had
been filling his scooter came over.  He’d
heard what was going on and asked if he could help.  I explained to him I needed petrol and he
very kindly filled my car.  The young
employee had returned back inside by this time so he took my money and went
inside to pay.  As a thank you I also
paid for the fuel he’d put in his scooter – it was the least I could do.

So the system is useful, where people have had training and are able
to actually assist.  To their credit the
above incident was highlighted to Tesco in a letter and they responded by
ensuring all petrol station staff are trained in its use, as well as the use of
petrol pumps.


DMUK campaign on behalf of disabled motorists and have a campaign
around the subject of refuelling.  This
centres around 4 main issues:

  • Disabled motorists must be able to receive appropriate assistance
    with refuelling and paying.
  • If there are changes to the way that fuel is supplied, such as
    changes in automation or staffing levels, these must not have a negative
    impact on disabled drivers.
  • Petrol stations should install Servicecall and train their staff to
    use the system properly.
  • Petrol stations must find an acceptable way of taking payment using
    credit cards, for example by installing ‘spark safe’ terminals or accepting
    a signature instead.

An effective campaign relies on as much information as possible being
received from the people affected – disabled motorists and/or passengers who
need to refuel their cars in order to keep their independence.  DMUK have an online survey at http://tiny.cc/petrolstation where you can
submit details of your experiences.


details: http://www.service-call.net/

Address: ServiceCall, Milford Lane, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1EX

Tel: (01629) 814488 –
or Freephone 0800 458 3008

Fax: (01629) 815470

Email: info@service-call.net

Check Your License – Is It Valid?

In January this year I placed an order for my next
Motability car with my local Peugeot dealer.
A few days after this I received a phone call from the dealer explaining
that the order had been refused by Motability because my license was
invalid.  This was a shock to me as,
having renewed my license in 2009, I had noted that it was valid until 2047.

A quick phone call to the DVLA in Swansea revealed the
problem – driving license holders are now required to update the photos on
their license every 10 years.  The expiry
date of the photo is shown in section 4b on the photocard part of your license.

In order to update the photo a driving license holder needs
to obtain a passport style photo, a D1 driving license application form (which
can be obtained from your local Post Office) and a cheque or postal order for
£20 made payable to DVLA Swansea.  Fill
in the relevant sections on the D1 form (it comes with a guidance leaflet) and
send the form, photo, cheque or postal order and both parts of your current
license to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1DH.  It
is important to use the right postcode due to the way the mail is sorted at

In my case I sent off my application and new photo and have
now received my updated license.  And my
Peugeot dealer managed to get the car ordered with Motability.

DVLA say that they send reminders to anyone whose current
photo or license is about to expire, but this didn’t happen in my case.  With the onus being on the license holder and
with a £1000 fine if you do not update the photo, it could be worth checking.

UNISON Disabled Members Conference 2009

UNISON Disabled Members Conference 2009

Daniel Anderson-McIntyre

I attended the national Disabled Members Conference of
UNISON in Blackpool over the long weekend of October 31st to
November 2nd.

As a 1st time Delegate to Conference things were
a little bewildering at first.
Thankfully I soon met a lady by the name of Fiona Heneghan, a Disability
Officer from Surrey County Council.
Fiona guided me through Conference procedures and helped make sure I was
in the right place at the right time.

Whilst at Conference I also met Dan Anderson and his wife Wendy
who both use BSL, so I had a chance to practise ready for my upcoming exam and
had some interesting conversations with them both.

One of the most bewildering things about Conference was the
hotel lobby during breaks and social times.
I have never seen so many people using wheelchairs, scooters,
powerchairs, crutches, walking sticks, BSL, hearing aids and PAs in one place
before.  It was nice to go from the
office or street environment. where I might be the only wheelchair user in
sight, to being just one of the crowd.
Everyone was friendly and helpful and the hotel staff were absolute

Conference was also attended by Dave Prentis (General
Secretary, UNISON) and Jonathan Shaw (Minister for Disabled People).

Dave gave an address detailing UNISON’s vision of a future
in which disabled workers were afforded the same levels of respect as their
non-disabled colleagues and also spoke about UNISON’s current “One Million
Voices” campaign.

Jonathan spoke about the Government’s current position on
disability working rights, including Disability Leave.  There then followed a lengthy Q and A session
during which he took questions from Conference and attempted to answer them.

On the last day of Conference one of the agenda items was a
motion on Disability Leave, which was something I had spoken to Fiona, Wendy
and Dan about several times during the weekend.
Fiona encouraged me to address Conference, which I did.

I spoke about how people working in organisations that did
not recognise Disability Leave as separate from Sickness Leave were being
disadvantaged in comparison to their non-disabled colleagues.  Many people working in these organisations
are being taken down Capability process routes by their HR departments simply
because they have racked up more sick days than their non-disabled colleagues.

This address was met with rapturous applause and afterwards,
during a break, I was approached by several people, all eager to tell me of
their experiences.  One of these people
was Jean Sowley (Regional Chair Disabled Members and National Co-Chair Disabled
Members) who told me that what I had spoken about was by no means uncommon and
asked me to become more active within the union.

On the last evening there was a social event which lasted
well into the next morning!  I have never
before seen a group of BSL interpreters signing karaoke.  That’s not a typo!  Signing.
In perfect synchronicity.  Dancing
wheelchairs (NOT ballroom!), lots of beer and a great atmosphere as well as
good company and a lot of laughs all made for a great night.

The weekend was certainly an experience and I have made
several new friends.  I look forward to
returning next year!

2008 Nissan Note Review

This time I am reviewing my Fiancee’s Nissan Note.  This is the top of the range Tekna spec with
the 1.6 16 valve engine.

The Note from the outside looks quite long, tall and
narrow and you might expect it to drive much like a van.  Once inside however and on the road you find
that the Note handles like a car and the higher than most driving position is
comfortable and offers a great view of the road all round.  The wheelbase is long with the wheels right
into each corner which makes for great stability and a massive amount of
useable space inside.

The Tekna comes with automatic lighting and wiper
systems, alloy wheels, part leather trim, privacy glass, climate control, front
fog lights, flex board system, underseat storage, cooled glovebox, 6 disc CD
changer, auxiliary input and Bluetooth handsfree.

The Tekna has sport seats with part leather trim.  The drivers seat is adjustable for angle,
height and reach.  Annoyingly for this
driver the height and angle adjustment are combined so you can sit high but
with the seat angled downwards or sit low with the seat angled up.  There is also no lumbar adjustment which
could be a problem for some.  The drivers
seat does get a fold down armrest.  The
steering wheel is adjustable for height though if you have hand controls fitted
then this necessitates the removal of the adjustment lever so it would be
important to set the height before the adaptation installer gets their hands on

Speaking of adaptations our Note is fitted with Cowal
Mobility push/pull accelerator/brake, Alfred Bekker steering wheel spinner and
Alfred Bekker easy release handbrake.
These were all installed by KC Mobility in Batley who, as ever, have
done a good neat job which works perfectly.

The rear seat is adjustable too – it will slide backwards
or forwards to give either more legroom or a larger boot space.  With it fully in the rear position there are
almost limo like levels of legroom in the back.
The limo theme continues with the rear privacy glass, keeping the rear
cool and kids protected from glare.  The
windows themselves are also large giving passengers a good view of the outside.  The rear seat can be moved from within the
passenger compartment or from the boot and with passengers in place if you are
strong enough!

Again for the rear passengers there are fold out trays to
hold snacks or toys etc and which also contain drinks holders.  There are large storage nets on the back of
the front seats for books and magazines, there is a central fold out armrest
and 3 headrests.  A word of advice though
– if you have kids and plan to use the rear trays to hold food items on a long
journey it might be worthwhile getting some of those gripper mats that hold
items in place on a car dashboard – the trays have a small lip on them but
items still slide about and off whilst driving…..!

The front passenger seat contains a storage box under the
seat base which is billed as a secure hiding space for valuables but as we all
know you should never leave valuables in the car – thieves do know these
supposed secret hiding spaces too!  The
front passenger gets a decent amount of legroom.

Storage up front consists of a large glovebox, which in
this spec level is cooled by the air conditioning when needed.  On the front of the glovebox is a large slot
with a deep hole which is perfect for storing books or paperwork or a Blue
badge.  In the centre console is a large
space with 2 cupholders and beside the drivers seat behind the handbrake is a
small slot perfect for storing your mobile phone.  There is also a useful shelf on top of the
dashboard which runs the whole width of the car.

The Tekna spec in car entertainment consists of a 6 disc
in dash CD changer with radio and auxiliary input, so you can connect your iPod
or other device which has a 3.5mm headphone jack.  It also includes a Bluetooth handsfree system
which routes calls to your mobile through the car sound system.  This system also displays the caller details
on the dashboard and has a microphone just above the interior mirror.  The phone and sound system can be controlled
from the steering wheel.  One noticeable
downside of the sound system is that it does sound a bit tinny and quite nasty
at higher volumes.

The boot has a large, square opening and on the Tekna
model has the flex board system.  This
consists of 2 boards which form a “false” boot floor level with the rear bumper
so there is no lip.  These boards are
carpeted on one side while on the other there is a waterproof wipe clean
surface.  The boards can be removed
completely to reveal more space underneath (as well as the handle to move the
rear seat) and there are recesses in the “real” floor to hold them there.  The spare wheel and tools are underneath this
“real” floor.

Visibility from the driving position is good, even with a
full load of passengers.  The Note is
easy to position and manoeuvre. This makes parking easy in tight spaces.  Overtaking is easy with the 1.6 and when
hitting the kickdown the engine does have a bit of a growl to it and pulls the
car forwards at quite a pace.

Whilst the Note is good in the city and suburbs it is
also versatile and is comfortable and powerful enough to cope with longer
journeys.  One downside though is that
the 1.6 can be noisy at motorway speeds – a point that has been noticed by
other reviewers.

As regards accessibility the Note’s high driving seat can
make access and egress for some easier, the door opening for all doors is wide
and the boot (contrary to Ricability’s report) will take a folding wheelchair
with the rear seats in the upright position.
A rigid chair will also go in with the rear wheels removed and the
backrest folded down.  The only thing
that is necessary to achieve this is to take the flex boards out, place them on
the floor, remove the parcel shelf and slide the rear seat forwards.  This still gives adequate legroom for rear
seat passengers.

2011 Citroen C3 Review

Continuing the French trend in our choice of cars lately,
my Fiancee recently chose a Citroen C3 Exclusive as her current car through the
Motability scheme.  This is the new 2011
version of this 10 year old design and has been brought bang up to date.

The Exclusive is the top of the range and the 1.6 Auto is
currently available with nil advance payment through Motability.  Being top of the range it comes with various
features including the fantastic Zenith windscreen – a large panoramic piece of
glass which extends to the B pillars, lots of chrome trim on the outside and
alcantara trim inside.

As is usual for us the car has been fitted with hand
controls (Cowal Mobility), a steering wheel spinner (Jeff Gosling) and easy
release handbrake (Alfred Bekker) all installed by KC Mobility of Batley, who
have as usual done a top notch job.  On
this car the majority of the rods for the accelerator and brake have been
hidden behind the fascia underneath the steering wheel, making for a tidy and
comfortable install which works perfectly.

The C3 is very easy to drive with the 1.6 engine
providing plenty of power – it is a small light car.  The auto gearbox, as is common on so many
cars nowadays, can be used as a pseudo manual, but left in auto mode it is very
smooth.  The only downside this reviewer
can find is the steering.  The C3 uses
electric power steering which is incredibly light.  For some people this might be a good thing
and maybe even essential but personally I find it removes any feel for the road
surface.  As is common it is important to
make sure the steering column is set correctly for the driver before the hand
controls are fitted as it is fixed in position once the install is done.

Both driver and front passenger get seats which are
adjustable for legroom, height and angle.
Rear passengers get 3 headrests and full 3 point seatbelts.  All seats are comfortable though bear in mind
this is a small car and doesn’t have acres of space in the rear – tall people
might prefer to stick to the front.

As for features, the C3 is brimming with the latest
prerequisites.  You have as standard on
the Exclusive a CD based MP3 player with built in Bluetooth handsfree for phone
calls and music streaming from compatible phones.  You also get an auxiliary input in the form
of a 3.5mm jack and a USB input for either an iPod or USB stick.

There is full climate control, cruise control, speed
limiter and remote control for the stereo.
All doors have electric windows, automatic on the front and manual on
the rear.  The rear doors also have an
electronic child safety system which prevents the doors and windows being
opened when active.

There is also a trip computer showing details of
estimated range remaining and the current and average MPG figures.  This also has 2 separate sets of trip details
so different sets of figures can be obtained.
Perhaps one of the more unusual features of the C3 is the built in air
freshener which supplies a scent via the centre dashboard vents.  This can be changed by buying the relevant
cartridge from your local Citroen dealer.

I can get my rigid wheelchair in the boot, but this
requires that the rear seat be folded down and the parcel shelf removed.  My folding chair will go in with the wheels
and footrests removed and the back folded down but again this is purely down to
the size of the car.

On the outside the car looks good.  It shares headlights, wings and bonnet with
the sportier Citroen DS3 so does have quite a macho look.  I’m not usually a fan of lots of chrome on a
car but the C3 Exclusive comes with chrome trim at the bottom of the windows,
on the door handles, around the grille and at the bottom of the tailgate and it
does look pretty good.

2007 Vauxhall Astra Review

In 2006, my disability meant that I had my full manual
driving license revoked and I was forced to sell my beloved Vauxhall Vectra.
After I had undergone a full driving assessment I was issued a three year
licence that stipulated that I had to drive an automatic and use hand controls.
I applied for DLA and upon being awarded the higher rate of the mobility component;
I decided to join the Motability scheme.

Being a Vauxhall man through and through, I opted for the
Astra with the Design spec, boasting half-leather interior, a smart ‘Piano
Black’ dashboard trim MP3/CD/radio sound system with 7 speakers, automatic
lights and wipers and an automatically dipping rear view mirror (Vauxhall call
it the Sight and Light Pack).  I also
opted to have Cruise Control installed.
This is all wrapped up in a Sapphire Black paint job.

Having decided on the car, I visited my local dealer
(Evans Halshaw in Wakefield) and spoke to the Motability specialist there.  The order was placed quickly and smoothly and
included the necessary adaptations – a Cowal Mobility push/pull accelerator/brake
and Alfred Bekker steering  wheel knob
and easy release handbrake, the cost of which was covered under the Motability
scheme.  The advance payment for the car
was £199 which I considered to be fantastic considering the level of comfort
and mobility it offered.

My adaptations were installed by KC Mobility of Batley
who were friendly and helpful throughout and explained the controls to me.  The installation is neat and reliable, with
the rods attached to the accelerator and brake pedals concealed behind the

Since taking delivery of the car in April 2007 I have
covered some 26,000+ miles, mostly without problems.  In March 2008 the auto gearbox failed on my
way to work, but the Motability breakdown team soon picked the car up and had a
hire car delivered to me at the office.
I was particularly impressed that the hire car was the same model and
spec as mine, though I was glad to get my own car (fitted with a new gearbox) back
2 weeks later!

Since then the car has been faultless.  The 1.8 petrol engine is quiet and smooth,
whether in city traffic or on the open road.
The power delivery in normal (or “economy”) mode is smooth and
progressive and you tend to only notice the gear changes  because of the changing number on the
dashboard display. This also avoids the need to look down to check what has
been selected.

Press the seemingly innocuous Sport button on the
dashboard though and the character of the car changes completely – the
suspension stiffens, the steering sharpens up and the throttle response becomes
noticeably quicker. Gear changes are held off until higher in the rev range
(almost in the red zone) and the car becomes a beast – in this mode the gear
changes are very noticeable, as is the engine noise.

The engine is the 1.8 16 valve with VVTi (Variable Valve
Timing and injection).  This produces
around 140PS which is more than enough to propel this car at a decent rate of
speed.  This is mated to a 4-speed fully
automatic gearbox.

Getting in and out of the car can be tricky as the seating
position is quite low compared to some, but once inside the driver is faced
with a dashboard and controls that are logical and within easy reach.  There is plenty of leg and head room and a
variety of adjustments can be made to the driving position.  One downside to the hand controls is that
they make it impossible to adjust the reach on the steering wheel once they
have been installed so it is important to get this set correctly before
installation.  The height adjustment on
the steering wheel is still useable.

The car has plenty of space for passengers, luggage and
mobility aids; it can happily transport my fiancée and I , three kids, my
wheelchair and walking stick and a weeks shopping.  The boot can be closed from a wheelchair
position by grabbing the side just below the rear screen and a really neat and
useful feature of this trim level is the full open/close feature – you can open
or close all the windows from the remote key.
This can be useful if you need to grab onto something having placed the
wheelchair in the boot on your way to the drivers door. The car is easily
manoeuvrable with 2.5 turns lock to lock on the steering and great visibility
all round.

The entertainment system in the car (Vauxhall call it
“Infotainment”!) is a great piece of kit.
Though not up to audiophile standards it does boast an MP3 player which
plays CDs with MP3 files burnt on them, which means that depending on quality
you can get some 10 or possibly more albums on one CD. Track information is
displayed on the dashboard and the sound is good quality with plenty of power
behind it – important if you spend a lot of time in your car and like your
music.  I listen to anything from
classical to R&B and whatever I have on it is played well.

The lighting, wipers and rear view mirror are all
automatic, although you can switch the lighting to manual mode if required.  In the auto setting the lights can come on
when you go under a bridge and I have known them to cause confusion at some
junctions with bridges nearby as people can think you are flashing the lights
at them, but it is a useful feature.  The
wipers are quick to respond and adapt to changing conditions.  A neat feature of the wipers is that when they
are in use and you select reverse gear the rear wiper comes on – very thoughtful!  The rear view mirror inside the car dims
automatically to prevent dazzling if it senses that someone behind has main
beam headlights on or badly adjusted headlights.  The exterior mirrors are heated and
electrically adjusted.

Long journeys in the car are comfortable and relaxing,
helped by the cruise control which is offered as an optional extra.  This allows the driver to set a speed between
30 and 120MPH and the car will then maintain that speed unless the brake is
operated or the system switched off.
Whilst cruise control is switched on it is possible to adjust the speed
in either direction incrementally by pressing the up or down button.  If the system has been turned off either
manually or by operating the brake then the preset speed can be regained at the
touch of a button if need be.

All in all I am very happy with the car and can easily
see myself sticking with Vauxhall when it comes time to change next year – I’m
already tempted by the Insignia.

Employer Attitudes Towards Disabled Employees

Attitudes Towards Physical and Mental Impairment in the Modern Office Environment

In 2006, at the age of 29, I became disabled. This wasn’t just an overnight thing but was gradual over several months and I believe, looking back, had been
going on for a number of years beforehand.

My disability consists of a mental illness, known as Conversion Disorder, which causes me several physical and mental disabilities. I have difficulty for example with walking, often using my wheelchair or crutches to get around. Among the more “invisible” problems are my poor memory and lack of ability to concentrate for long periods of time.

I have been working in 1st line IT Support now for around 11 years and in 2006 was employed in the private sector by a large multinational food company. I went from walking normally one week in the office, albeit with some stumbling and falling, to walking with a stick and then, after trying to avoid it for some weeks, using my wheelchair to get around full time.

The first time I entered the office in my ‘chair I was extremely nervous and wondered what my colleague’s reactions might be. I needn’t have
worried – the ‘chair was simply accepted and didn’t seem to phase anyone or provoke any unwanted attention.

For their part my employer contacted my GP for info on how best they could accommodate me and any changes they may need
to implement in my work or working environment. They also arranged an independent Occupational Therapy Assessment, again so that they could find out
how best to help me continue in my work.

My GP advised that I should avoid stressful situations which meant that my workload was reduced and at one point it was suggested that I could work in the company mail room which I found quite upsetting and which never came to pass. Other items that came out of these assessments were that a different keyboard/mouse might be useful as I often have problems gripping a mouse, so I use a touchpad instead.

Every suggestion that came back was run past me and if I agreed it was implemented – the company even decided to give me every Tuesday off to visit a support group but kept me on full pay and paid for taxis to and from work when I couldn’t drive. Nothing, it seemed, was too much trouble. Being new to disability I was completely unaware of the DDA and would never have dreamed of asking for any of the adjustments they made, even though they did help enormously. My view was that my problems were my problems and I had to deal with them.

That employment ended with redundancy when the company decided to outsource IT to a third party. We were transferred under TUPE rules to become employees of that third party who announced that they wanted us to relocate to Milton Keynes and admitted that the two office buildings they had there were both inaccessible to wheelchair users. So the only option for me was redundancy.

So now, faced with unemployment and still coming to terms with my newly acquired disability, I was forced to start searching for work. Cue much sending of CVs to various agencies and jobsearch websites. Most of the jobs I were applying for I was more than qualified for but it seemed that no-one was even interested in inviting me for interview. The only interviews I was getting were from the “two ticks” organisations – public bodies who had the “Positive About Disabled People” symbol on their forms and the guaranteed interview organisations.

A lot of these very blatantly were simply going through the motions and doing what they were required to do. Then there was an interview
in Leeds. Again I turned up, dressed as smart as I could (shirt and tie – jackets don’t go well with wheelchairs) and ready for yet another
disappointment. The interview itself I felt went badly and I left thinking I would never hear from them again.

Two days later I got a call from that organisations HR department asking why I hadn’t mentioned the fact that I was
disabled on the application form. I had completely missed the entire Equality section of the long form and had therefore gotten through to the interview on my
own merits! It transpired that they were offering me the job but needed me to complete the form first. I hastily completed the form and emailed it back to
them. I was offered the job and accepted straight away.

Being a public sector organisation there are a lot of things that need to be done it seems when a disabled person is employed. I was invited to visit the office for a day to assess whether I could get around and what adaptations might need to be put in place. It was decided that a powered door opener on the main entrance and my own parking space in the garage under the building were needed. Again I couldn’t have asked for this and the parking space, in Leeds centre, is worth its weight in gold!

So, adaptations in place and I was working again. Then my line manager took maternity leave and problems started. Another manager was appointed
to my team and his attitude and knowledge seemed to be based around 50 years in the past. I was made to feel unreliable, useless and a burden to the rest of the team everytime I had a hospital or doctor appointment, or one of the kids or my partner were ill. He would pick apart the work I had done each day looking for mistakes and making it known when he felt he had found the slightest thing wrong. It seemed nothing I could do was good enough, even when I was working longer hours and doing more work than the rest of the team.

The final straw came when I was excluded from a briefing session being held in London. I asked why I had been excluded and was told by this manager that it was felt that my mobility problems and family commitments would make it difficult for me to attend. I pointed out that I could deal with my mobility problems myself and was used to life being difficult. I wasn’t excluded again.

I think that becoming disabled has given me a unique viewpoint on life and on working life in particular. It has been a real eye opener to a whole world of which I knew nothing previously and has shown that in some people old fashioned attitudes towards disabled people are still rife, but also that there are good employers and people out there who will bend over backwards to accommodate disabled people.

The trick is to find them…..