A lot of industries profess to be workplaces that are disability friendly or put forward that they are open to people with differing experiences/ backgrounds- but I find this to be genuinely not the case from my experience. I am going to give a very honest account – of my experiences- not because I want to be noticed in relation to this, or to be felt sorry for, but because it highlights areas that need to change for people who do not fit the “norm”.
I have a disability- something that is not easy to say….which it shouldn’t be. It feels uncomfortable because it suggests lack, perhaps stupidity, even the word itself, implies this: dis-ability. It is a hidden disability yet it holds me back in the workplace in so many ways. I have dyscalculia which is perhaps best explained as a numbers and “logic” version of dyslexia. My ability to process numbers, do arithmetic, follow logical sequences (particulalry I.T ones) is woefully inadequate and more than somewhat lacking. Even to remember the four numbers in succession for my bank PIN numbers requires a bizarre and wacky story to remember them by!
However, I do believe that the brain compensates in other areas when it has a lack in a particular area. It is true to say that people who are born with these kinds of difficulties often excel in other ways. A lot of Creatives are dyslexic, Aspergers people are often gifted too in particular ways. For me, I have a fluid ability to write lyrics, improvise music, create creative means and ideas for teaching people and ”read” people in a quick and deeply intuitive way – (I call it my x ray eyes)! These are skills and gifts- but not ones that are so easily put to use in a modern work place.
I have tried to become a primary teacher- but could not get the help I required in the last teaching practice to plan and teach maths, so I had no choice but to drop out and be given a qualification that fits nowhere. I then went on to do a music teaching specialism- in an attempt to get round this. It was always my aim anyway to be a music specialist as this is where my strengths lie. I have used this training and built on it and built on my idiosyncratic combination of talents to create a successful, small , person centred music teaching business at home. However, it does not really bring in enough money and is very vulnerable to changes- it can be as fickle as the British weather!
So, I tried to see if the teaching governing body (GTS and GTCS in Scotland), would give me their seal of approval to teach just music in mainstream school…..but no, one has to teach maths in order to teach music! General music is given a days worth of training at teacher training college and maths a great deal of time and attention. I have a specialist music training and eight years worth of teaching experience in a number of independent and alternative schools and nurseries and yet I can not be considered as appropriate because I do not hold the correct certification. I do not tick the right boxes. How ironic is that is for someone who can’t think in boxes and linear logic!
Equal opportunities is a great idea- but it simply does not translate on the ground or rather in the workplace. Instead we have a system that is really not very human and does not serve anyone that does not fit within quite narrow criteria.
I came across this again most recently. I got a part time job in a nursery. They and I believed my six years worth of training : Montessori nursery training , Education studies, Kodaly music and mindfulness trainings would be more than ample. But no, it is not an NVQ level 3 in childcare and so I am not considered correctly qualified because I do not tick the right boxes! I personally think this is somewhat crazy. This is box ticking gone mad. It reminds me of the comedy in which a character goes to book a holiday and the holiday organiser keeps telling him that the “computer says no”!
The computer says no when people with difference could offer so much.
This lack of opportunity is not confined to people who have differences. It is also experienced by women in general and in particular women returning to work and women who live rurally. My other area of work is to try and become a songwriter- which is where my natural talents also lie. But, in order to get any financial help/grants – which is needed to develop a new artist- then one either has to be young ( for a programme or scheme), or have access to urban spaces for gigs, collaboration and building visibility. Women, such as me, who are older, poor and rural will not tick any of these boxes. Even the ironically named “Do It Differently” fund was a non starter!
So- I personally, am in a right old frustrating pickle. So, I decide to try and learn from it as a spiritual experience….all very well and good…but it does not solve it or put food on the table.
I bet there are so many other people out there, who also find the way the world works does not help them get on- despite their best efforts.
This is a personal account but it highlights areas where positive change needs to be made to make the western working world easier for many of us.
Yes, we need standards and accountability but it needs to be done with a human sensibility not by mere box ticking or because a computer says no. We need to look at the bigger picture.
Lets celebrate difference, unusual circumstances and people because that is what the world is made up of: people not boxes or computers!