This is a fantastic opportunity for 30 students and graduates with disabilities. Please email linda.kelly@ahead.ie to reserve a place. 

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I went along with Niamh to the first Get Ready for Work seminar of 2011 the week before last in Dundalk. It was my first time going to one of these seminars and I have to say, for a day at work, I really enjoyed it! The day was focused on talking to students about selling their skills to employers and the different tools they can use to do a little bit of self investigation.

 

Harriet Andrews, the Careers Officer from DKIT recommends using the Grad Ireland Careers Report and Niamh pointed students to the new AHEAD publication on Disclosure – both very valuable in examining what you want out of your career and how to approach the very complex issue of ‘when do I tell someone about my disability?’

 

If you missed the Dundalk session – do not fear! We have another seminar coming up on the 30th March in Limerick. Check out the poster:

Yesterday in Dublin Castle WAM hosted a conference: “Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace: Minding your own business” It was a very interesting morning, with Lucy Fallon Byrne opening the conference, with the policy overview formed by the National Centre for Partnership Performance. She was followed by Professor Ivan Robertson and the Gareth O’Callaghan spoke of his personal experience. Even thought it was my work, I really enjoyed the conference. The balance between policy, academics and personal seeemed to work well, with each reinforcing the other. Workshops were given by Prof Robertson and by Janice Walshe of BCM Hanby Wallace.

You can download presentations here

I think it was a timely conference, given how much mental health has been in the media lately, and also given how much the recession must be impacting on people’s stress levels, both in work and outside work. If a company can recognise the value of supporting and valuing and minding its staff, it will see the positive impact of that. It is simple. If a company can value mental wellbeing and recognise their role in creating that, then they are more likely to understand and support staff going through any mental ill health, and their employees are less likely to experience it. Seems simple really.

Press coverage (including a small survey done at the same time): Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Herald

Happy new year everyone! January is always a quiet month for me as I plan the forthcoming year and settle back into work. Anyway, part of the planning involves meetings and I recently had one with my boss where we were trying to pull together another funding proposal and a proposal for a presentation at this conference

And halfway through the meeting, as I was mid rant I realised that I still hadn’t bought a recorder of some kind. Honestly, I talk far better than I write. When prepping for some public speech I rehearse aloud/ in my head, and jot down the key points that make me remember the thread that the whole thing hangs on. But finding that line is always in conversation, always verbal rather than written. Right now, I’m talking in my head as I write this post. Anyway, the point is that I come up with my best ideas, and more importantly the logic and convincing rationale for them, when I’m talking. Not when I’m writing, not when I’m alone. So I need a recorder that I can talk into. And a space where I can talk. Because that’s the other problem. I need someone to listen, or the room to not mind me talking. So – when and how I work best. By talking and being listened to or alone (oddly enough my colleagues find it hard to work when I’m walking around the room needing to be listened to or talking to myself.  Or at least it would be unfair to ask them to compromise their way of working, – – they’re great, by the way, this isn’t a complaint – compromises and balance of different needs will have to be a whole other post)

Knowing how you work best is valuable. Next time I have to come up with an idea, a proposal, an argument to convince, to change (a large chunk of my job) I’ll be talking not writing – 2 quick, face to face, meetings were far more effective than hours spent staring at the screen drafting things I’d later scrap. In those circumstances, verbalising is far more effective for me. Obviously, in different circumstances, trying to do something different, or in a different job, it might not work for me. The point is, I’ve figured out a tool, a method that makes it easier for me to do my job, and helps me do my job better.

Working with, talking to, other people with disabilities, I’m always saying you need to know what you need to make you able to do your job – what assistive technology, what transport, what breaks, what supports, because of your disability. The point I’m trying to make, is that figuring all that out is about trying to figure out how you do your job easily and best. An accommodation is there to help you do your job – getting that accommodation is good for you and for your job. And that applies to everyone, disabled or not. The likelihood of needing an accommodation, a different way of doing things increases if you have a disability, but the end point is the same – you need certain things to do your job and to do it well.

So, figure out what you need to work well – regardless of why you need it, figure it out.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to buy a recorder.

In an AHEAD/TNS MRBI survey 2 years ago 73% of employers said that graduates with disabilities should disclose.

Disclosure comes up frequently for graduates with disabilities when we’re talking to them and is a session in the Get Ready for Work seminars, especially in relation to invisible disabilities.

BUT

Irish legislation* makes no reference to disclosure of disability*. Nothing says you do or don’t have to disclose your disability.

I find this rather frustrating but also rather interesting.

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*I am referring to the Disability Act 2005, the Equality Act 2004, the Equal Status Act 2000, the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Health, Safety & Welfare at Work Act 2005

*The Employement Equality Act and the Equal Status Act both refer to the disclosure of information in the context of the equality tribunal or the labour court, but make no reference to disability

I was reading a few posts on Tommy’s site recently where he was talking about his cane and the posts resonated with me.

Every time I talk to a group of people about disclosure (of disability) their reactions are very different. And I got to thinking about my reactions. I get tired telling people. I have a spiel that I think makes me even sound tired talking about it. My disabilities are mostly invisible (if you’re not looking hard, or don’t know what to look for at least). I don’t hide them, but they are definitely more invisible. I do have a choice – I don’t have to tell. I could pass for able bodied. My disability is not revealed not by my body, there’s no ‘giveaways’ But because of the way this world is, for me to operate in it, I have to tell. And telling can be difficult or tiring, you are revealing personal information that people sometimes don’t know what to do with. Which can be awkward. But then so is a halfway existence. Sometimes, I wish it was it was told for me – that I had a cane. Or the hearing aids I had as a small kid which I wore in a little harness on my chest – 2 little pouches,  with 2 boxes, and long wires dangling out of them. But that’s only sometimes. More often, I wish it wasn’t necessary to make it obvious. That the way this world is, includes people like me a little more. I also wish that having been this person all my life, that I could talk about that one part of me more easily, so that we can get back to a conversation which all of me is in, not just my disability.*

So when disclosure comes up, I’m very concious of all the emotions and the difficulties that people may have. I also think that those who look for that information should think about what telling is, and how it would be to have to do it. All the time.

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*I don’t mean this as a ‘poor me’ piece, more as a reflective piece, based on my thoughts and feelings after reading Tommy’s posts.

Following on from my last post, I’d like to talk a little bit about some of the other barriers to employment for graduates with disabilities. While access (and by this I mean physical infrastructure) is probably the biggest barrier, its also the hardest to tackle. It’s not complication that makes it hard to tackle, but simply the scale of the task. It is pervasive. And talking about access will probably make up several posts all on its own – in a constructive manner I hope (no pun intended!)

But what of the other barriers? Another project of AHEAD (the WAM Project) has done a lot of work with employers and graduates trying to identify where some of the barriers lie. And unfortunately, it’s not one giant wall in the way, but rather an obstacle course or minefield of smaller issues. The report from the last round of that project can be found here. Barriers identified included perceptions, recruitment & selection processes, support mechanisms (or lack of), welfare rights, disclosure, accomodations, and grants. I plan to look at each of these over the forthcoming months, but in the meantime I’d like to know if anyone thinks I’ve missed any in my list?