What really goes on behind the scenes?
Work Experience 2016 Cohort 1
The year was 2012. It all happened over night really, one minute I was really active, going to the gym, running, doing charity treks and the next I struggled to stand on my tip toes and get up from the floor.
I first realized I had problems with my mobility when I was doing a charity trek of the Sahara desert as I struggled with the simplest of tasks such as getting up from the floor or ‘stepping up’ onto boulders and rocks. I put it down to being unfit as in all honesty I did no training for the trek at all! But I was an active girl I thought I would be okay.
I was passed from one medical specialist to the next as my local doctors struggled to find a suitable explanation for my sudden deterioration, so much so I actually have to be seen in Newcastle. I’m from Yorkshire. Fast-forward two years and various different tests, and I were diagnosed with LGMD2B.
Not all disabilities are obvious to the human eye at first glance.
Physically to look at me, my disability is quite silent. I don’t look like a ‘disabled person’. I’m not in a wheelchair; I don’t have a missing limb. It has been really hard for me to come to terms with my disability. I hadn’t lived actively with LGMD for 24 years and suddenly the simplest tasks were a struggle. I can’t run anymore… I think that’s the worst.
I have so many dreams and now suddenly companies won’t allow to me take part in activities. There are opportunities I have always been passionate about that I am now seen as a health and safety risk to take part in. I have found it really hard to come to terms to such negative attitudes about disability due to a lack of understanding.
So, you can understand why I was so reluctant to apply for Channel 4’s work experience programme, right? Past experiences made me think ‘why would they take me on when they can have someone more abled to do the job? Who could do it more efficiently?’
At one point I almost left out the fact I had a disability. I thought if I don’t put it down it won’t affect my chances and I will be like everybody else. But then I realized my disability is what makes me stand out from the rest. It’s a part of me, its who I am. I didn’t want to make excuses for myself because of my disability. I was honestly gob smacked when I found out I had been successful.
From the offset the 4Talent team were helpful and supportive. They made sure I was able to get myself around London and made it clear that assistance was there whenever or however I required it. But it wasn’t forced at all. This allowed me to continue being independent and feel ‘normal’.
In the office, I instantly felt accepted and included and suddenly my differences were not different. Nobody looked at me and focused on my disability, instead, everyone just saw personalities.
Having my own desk and workspace was more valuable than they’d ever know! Using the lifts instead of the stairs was not frowned upon as actually everyone was using them! I was treated the same as everybody else. I was not labeled as ‘the disabled work experience girl’. I was an equal part of the team. To me that was important, as since my diagnosis one of the most frustrating things that I have witnessed is condescending compassion. Today’s society mean’s having a disability is looked down upon, as people don’t know how to react. It’s annoying when people feel sorry for you. But now I’m starting to embrace my disability and am eager to change people’s views on disability.
I learnt Channel 4 take all kinds of people and disabilities and make something out of everybody. I learnt so much about myself and they allowed me to be independent in the workplace. Some tasks required me to work alone that enabled me to use my initiative and learn organizational skills, which I can transfer to future projects. The team at 4Talent recognized my disability did not affect my thinking. Sometimes I think having a disability suddenly means you are affected mentally! I was trusted to take over the 4Talent twitter page (of 70,000 followers) to tweet about future events and I learnt a lot about how to include a wide audience. (Having a disability enables you to think about others that you wouldn’t necessarily think about.)
The 4Talent team made me forget I had a disability. Spending the day out of the office at an employment company Channel 4 were working with taught me brand new analytical skills. I learnt how to be confident and talk about my ideas. In fact being disabled actually opens up a whole new level of idea creation and development.
Channel 4 personally helped me to understand that having a disability doesn’t need to control you. It shouldn’t stop you from doing anything. I will not feel sorry for myself. I’m going to do something.
I would highly recommend work experience with channel 4. The week was inspiring and valuable and I learnt so much about the impact disabled people have in the work place. I have discovered so many career paths I could take in the future just by spending the week networking and working with a disabled friendly, accepting and enthusiastic company. There are many options with Channel 4 and I would love to work for the company later on in my career. There are literally no limits! The only limit is you.