It is a human right to be able to choose what work you do and to be employed by a means that suits the individual. However, this blanket assumption is far from the truth in many parts of the world and in particular, if you have a disability. Dis- empowerment, pathways being blocked, doorways being closed and lack of suitable training and support are the frequent experiences for those who have been unfortunate enough to have been born with a disability. Poverty is therefore likely to be a common occurence and prisons are filled with people who are dyslexic. Society is becoming more sensitive to this inequality but things need to change with more dynamism. Disabilities that are invisible are even easier to ignore and therefore for society to allow injustice to arise, almost without thought.
On the surface nobody would know I have a disability. I am educated, eloquent, empathic, organised, creative and a go getter. But, dig a little deeper you will find that I confuse numbers, struggle with IT sequences, sequences in general, don’t follow analogical reasoning and struggle in the short term with information processing. This is dyscalculia- the sibling of dyslexia. The world is becoming increasingly left brain orientated and hyper digitalised and it is therefore harder to navigate for those, like me, who are born with this. We are right brained individuals.
We see and process the world in different ways. Here is a good example. I was recently working with a musician on a song I have written, there were a few musical rests in the last line. The line goes like this: “To create my own garden, garden, garden of delight.” Between each “garden” , there is a pause…..for “normal” brain patterned people this is is seen just as a rest. For me it was where I was picking yellow roses in my garden and smelling/admiring them. I put in an extra pause after the word “create” because I was getting carried away in my imaginary garden and had to be brought back into line and this created the conversation that showed all of us working together the different ways of processing the music! It is a totally different way of processing the musical journey. It is not wrong, just different. The experiental lens of my world is not logical or linear, it is multi sensory and intuitive. These are qualities to be valued, not dismissed because they don’t fit into a linear box.
When people create job requirements and standards they tend to make blanket ones that everyone must adhere to. Employment law and job spec considerations need to take a long hard look at how this can fail people with disabilities. I can not teach music in mainstream primary school because I can not pass the QTS requirement to teach maths – to teach maths and English is an absolute requirement. In reality I don’t need maths to teach music.
This week I had some more news in the same vein. I had applied to be an assistant teacher for children with English as a foreign language. My degree has English within it, I write, I song write, I have taught music, free lance, every day for the last ten years. I speak English with absolute precision and clarity of accent. I am adept at dealing empathically with all kinds of children and all kinds of abilities and children’s problems with processing. Perhaps because of my own difference I have a hot wired antennae to spot how others may be processing things or not. This post was likely to be dealing with Ukrainian children who are also traumatised by their recent experiences .Empathic creative individuals would be a plus in this situation. However, even to be an assistant for this I need to have QTS. Yet again I am barred. Surely if you are not teaching maths, you should not have to be able to teach maths!
I would have been able to do this job walking in my sleep- yet I am barred, again, like I am barred from teaching music. This job would have fitted alongside my freelance music teaching, raised my income and allowed me to continue my slow journey into becoming an established singer songwriter.
So, what jobs are dyscalculics allowed to do? Nobody would want me in an office- I would give myself and my colleagues several nervous breakdowns in a few weeks with my chaotic, unlogical and unsystematic use of I.T! I could not be an engineer or a vet, doctor or nurse. People talk and talk about equal opportunities but this is just not the case. I have come to the conclusion that I just don’t fit mainstream work; yet my need for work and money grows greater by the year with a husband who is already past retirement age and living expenses sky rocketing through the roof. Without being maudlin and over dramatic- I just don’t fit, despite years of excellent education and a number of skills and talents. Soon, job marginalisation is going to become a hot topic with increasing automisation in the work place. Discussions of meaningful work and how to be productive and useful are going top be on societies spectrum of discussion.
I slip through the net politely in an educated way where no one would notice. People would assume education, privilege and even wealth if I open my mouth. The reality is very different . I slip through, not from lack of education, motivation or laziness but simply because employment laws and requirements are made for boxes to be ticked rather than actual individuals . I have many creative skills, people skills and talents but society does not allow me a place to thrive and shine.
The creative skillsets are often harder to quantify and career pathways in the creative industries are fraught with a lack of clarity and no clear ways ahead. If, as a society we value each other, art, music and literature then we need to find ways that these skillsets and individuals who possess them can earn and get ahead as well as their more left brained colleagues.
I write this blog from a position of wanting to make a difference. Legislation is unlikely to change that quickly to help my situation but maybe by vehemently speaking about the silent and unnoticed inequality and injustice I face just trying to work at something I am good at (teaching)and do every day in a free lance marginalised way ,then maybe some one somewhere will read and take note.
I, and others who have disabilities of any kind, do not like being marginalised, experiencing a lack of opportunity and inability to earn a professional wage. We need to work with peoples strengths not their weaknesses and create a fairer society for all of us.
But, life goes on like the flow of a river and I must rise and find my fire and forge my way somehow……
Next week, I research cleaning jobs for I can see no other door ways for my talents and skillsets.