by Jenny Kerr
When you were a child what did you say when an adult asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. How many of you are actually in that profession now? I wanted to be an athlete or a computer genius but I knew as a person with a disability there would inevitably be barriers that I would face.
We all have those hopes and dreams for our future but when you have a disability, dreams don’t often come true and you are left with the heart breaking reality of having to give up on the idea of working in your dream job for one more suitable given your physical or intellectual difficulties.
This really frustrates me! Don’t get me wrong, I understand that people who are able bodied are experiencing major difficulties in finding employment, especially in these recessionary times. But, I have noticed that when a person with a disability tries to pursue their “dream job”, their attempts can be hindered by able bodied people’s perceptions of the capabilities of people with disabilities. They operate on the set assumption that disabled people are incapable of holding down jobs in certain areas; that there are more “suitable” job opportunities out there, even if they’re not in the same arena as they would be for an able bodied person. Even if there does exist a more “suitable” job opportunity for a disabled person, I wonder if it’s ever in the area the disabled person dreamed they would be in when they grew up?
I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved computers and sport so naturally enough, I opted for this type of career. I also had friends with disabilities who were working/studying in the areas I was interested in. Nevertheless, I enjoyed speaking to family members about the different career choices they made over the years.
It has been 10 years since I completed my Leaving Cert. However, in those 10 years, I have had many voluntary and work experience type jobs, which I have loved but, as of yet, have not led to anything permanent. I suppose I have to take some responsibility for this situation. We were all told by our teachers at school that we had to “put the work in” if we wanted to achieve any of our life goals. Well the same rule applies when seeking employment. Unfortunately, my younger self wasn’t the best for taking on people’s advice which is why I feel I am, in some way, responsible for the situation I am in now.
I feel that when it comes to seeking employment, both employers and employees, especially those with a disability, should come together to try to find a way to combine that person’s career interests, with the tools and services they need, to work in that environment.
It may seem impossible to change people’s perceptions of what you as a disabled employee are capable of, but this is what we need to do if we are to fulfil our hopes and dreams.
I know this is easier said than done, but at the same time it needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that a person should risk their health when it comes to working in a job that interests them. However I feel that we as human beings know ourselves what we can and cannot do, no matter what, even if we are able bodied or disabled.