Finding work as a student with Cerebral Palsy

Photo credit – Inside Higher Ed

If you are a student or graduate with Cerebral Palsy and are finding it difficult to make progress in your career decisions and starting employment, I hope the following advice and insight helps.

Simon Stevens, Disability Consultant and Activist

“Employment can mean working for someone else or working for yourself. As someone with significant cerebral palsy, I have learnt to maximise my strengths and minimise my weaknesses in terms of my difficulties. Technology has played a big role in enabling myself and others to work on an equal level with others. Managing your time and energy is likely to be a bigger issue as you grow older and it is important to find work that fits into that. Your appearance, especially if you have a speech impairment, will be the elephant in the room and so your personality will need to shine to overcome this, the line between pride and appearing arrogant is a fine one. End of the day, make work work for you and your physical and emotional health”

Simon has worked with many organisations nationally and internationaly, and is the founder of Wheelies, the world’s first disability-themed virtual nightclub and star of Channel 4’s ‘I’m Spazticus’, along with being an established blogger and author. “I’m Big, I’m Balsy, I’m the rebel with cerebal palsy”. Simon’s LinkedIn profile can be viewed here, his website here and his blog here.

Azar, recent graduate

“Knowing that there’s a million disabled people who, like me, want to work but aren’t being given the chance, makes me feel so frustrated. It makes me more determined to prove to employers that disability isn’t a weakness. My advice to other disabled people looking for work is use your strengths and show employers that disability doesn’t define you – you can defy the odds.

I feel more confident taking about my impairment now and what I need to prosper in a company. I feel more sure of myself and my skills. To all the employers who are put off by disability I want to say: don’t judge me by my impairment, judge me on my skills and my experience, look at my track record. Cerebral palsy is not a weakness and with the right adjustments I can succeed.”

Taken from the Scope official blog, https://blog.scope.org.uk/tag/cerebral-palsy. Scope is a non-profit charity that supports a wide range of disabled people.

James Gower, Senior Manager – Information Security, EY

“[M]ake sure the role you’re applying for allows you to be the best you can be. This matches my experiences perfectly.

Being open throughout the recruitment process and now with my colleagues and co-workers, means I can continue to be at my best. I can continue to live an (adapted) working life, and I can be proud of each of my successes.

My disability has started to enable me to make a difference…. I’ve been able to promote disability awareness on a larger scale….

While my four years of working life have not been plain sailing, they have shown me there are no barriers to success which can’t be overcome. I wish I could tell my newly-graduated self that I should have had confidence in my potential employers, and confidence in myself. Recruiters want to hire real people, with real experiences, and having a disability means you have a unique perspective, an inherent ability to overcome adversity.

This is an except from an article James wrote for The Guardian. The full article can be found here.

“I know my own strengths and limitations, and I’m sure to always communicate these with my colleagues and superiors….. Albeit, my disability rarely interferes, and this is due to me being proactive about the challenges I face. For example, I’m sure to avoid the morning London rush by arriving to work early (plus not using the Tube network!), and I transport a lightweight laptop (provided by EY) so I’m not weighed down on my commute. Also, when feeling tired, I tend to work remotely from home as encouraged by EY’s flexible working initiates.”

Taken from My Plus Student Club case studies, which can be viewed here.

Emily Saunders-Madden, Researcher, Twenty Twenty

“The biggest piece of advice I can give is TALK. The conversation about exactly how my condition affects me is difficult – it can be embarrassing and frustrating. Disability is not a subject that is filled with positive language, iconic heroes, or empowered communities.

It is particularly difficult to admit when I’m struggling because I’m so used to just getting on with things, so finding a person in both a position to help and that you’re comfortable talking to is key. Go in with the positives, but be prepared to discuss the negatives. It’s only by everyone having a whole picture of somebody’s needs can these become a non-issue. Remember: We are all human.”

Taken from Channel 4’s guide for employing disabled talent, which can be viewed here.

Finally, a short video with stories from Scope’s #workwithme initiative

The video can be found here, while Scope’s #workwithme campaign helping employers be more inclusive can be found here.

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