Nadia Clarke describes her success at finding work as a young disabled and deaf woman, and the challenge of getting Access to Work support.
Author: Nadia Clarke
Last summer my mother emailed me some information about a job with an organisation called Triangle. The job involved delivering training to make people aware about communication for and with deaf and disabled people. I applied for the post and was offered an interview in Brighton, the first time I’ve ever been there! The interview was a great success which resulted in the job being offered to me at the end of August 2013. Great news! Or so I thought…
The job was due to start in November 2013 and I was really excited and eager to get started with my new job role. I am deaf and disabled and use a communication aid to speak and electric wheelchair to get around. All my personal assistants use British Sign Language. Due to my range of access needs I require the finances to be able to do my job.
I applied to Access to Work (ATW) and expected the process to be quick. Alas, it was not to be. Despite many correspondences between myself and ATW, the process dragged out over a course of several months and the finishing line seemed to move further away every time I spoke to Triangle and ATW. January, February, March, April. The months I was told it could happen but never eventually happened. I was starting to feel frustrated, losing motivation that you usually get when you get offered a job and the buzz that comes with it; and feeling that it was not meant to be.
I couldn’t fault Triangle though. They were incredibly patient and pushed ATW as a matter of urgency. As a disabled person with complex needs I have gone through my life being the first with many things; I was one of the first young people to go into mainstream school (moving 100 miles for this to happen), I was the first person with complex needs to go to the local high school along with my 5 other brothers and sisters gaining four GCSE’s, and then the first person to go to do a mainstream course (Health and Social Care) at our local college.
I am now hopefully heading to University and have been offered a place on my own personal experiences. I will be the first person with my needs to go. This makes all the processes much more difficult. At my high school the attitude was ‘We have never had anyone with your needs before, we may make some mistakes but we want to make it work’.
When I have people who believe in me and have the same aspirations then I can achieve a lot of things.
There were 15 people awaiting assessment in front of me and I would have to wait my turn. Will there be a surge in unemployment among deaf and disabled people? The media has a lot to answer for with labels for people on benefits – scroungers, lazy so to name a few. I don’t identify myself as being any of those people, I’ve always wanted to work and know what I’m able to do and my abilities. I have my parents to thank for this. They have always instilled their faith in my ability to work and use the skills I have learnt over the years and to grab opportunities as they come my way. I truly admire and value their support and advocacy. Their intervention and correspondences with the ATW people has been astounding and finally, 7 months after the interview, ATW has agreed for my support package. My first thought when I heard that everything has been approved was sheer delight and happiness, I can finally begin to work! I’m really looking forward to being busy, travelling, meeting new people, showing them what I am capable of.
I had a crazy dream the other night. I was on the doorstep of Number 10 and the Prime Minister came and knew that I was Nadia Clarke. I was not going to let this go quietly but to have my voice seen and heard for all deaf and disabled people.
I am going to continue to campaign to ensure that any changes ATW has implemented on deaf and disabled people reduce any unnecessary barriers that are there to prevent people from wanting to work. This is a team effort and only working together can we ensure that people will pledge their support and to prevent other disabled people going through any stress through any stress or having to wait so long that, like me, they nearly give up before even beginning to work. I am very fortunate to have Triangle behind me 100% and wish to thank them for their commitment to me as an employee.
Find out more about Triangle here.
The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.
Access to Work - Eventually © Nadia Clarke 2014.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.