A Letter to People with Learning Disabilities from Catherine Carter

I am sitting here at my desk, thinking about how I got here and what I wish to see in the future.

I want to see many more people with learning disabilities in employment.

At the moment, there are only 6% of people with a learning disability that are employed in the U.K., in meaningful jobs.

There should be more people with learning disabilities in work.

The Equality Act 2010 is here to ensure that people with disabilities are protected against discrimination.

So why are there still so few people with learning disabilities in employment?  Is it because of our lack of confidence? Is this partly because we  are having bad experiences when we do apply for a job? Or when we go for an interview? Are people with learning disabilities actually applying? Are we going for interviews? Are we put off by non-easy read application forms? There are so many questions left unanswered.

I am currently working on a project called Learning by Doing Together, which aims to change how people think about the employment of people with learning disabilities, and employ us as peer support workers in services that are there to support us.

There are jobs out there but often people with learning disabilities are put off from applying because of barriers such as application forms that are difficult to read and fill in. We also can lack confidence in interviews.  This is because deep inside we often don’t feel good about ourselves.  We are always at the bottom of the ladder of power and we believe what the world tells us: that we cannot do things.  But that’s so wrong, we are amazing and we can do many things.

I believe you can go where you want to go if you believe in yourself. You will be faced with many barriers but you can learn from them. You may have times when you feel down as if you are not getting anywhere, but don’t give up on finding the right employment for you.  There are success stories out there of people with learning disabilities who have a meaningful job and are no longer on benefits.

Here are some good ideas in finding employment that I have learnt through my own experience.

You can volunteer and get some work experience. This looks good on an application form and CV.

Look for opportunities in places that inspire you.

In the Job Centre Plus, ask for a disability job adviser as they are trained around disabilities.

Make good contacts and connections with people in your past and present, as you might meet them again.

Don’t give up!

Always search for advice and opportunities that interest you.

Turn your negative experience into positive, in a way that you could help others, this is what I do.

Think about all the things that you can do and that you know how to do really well, Instead of what you can’t do.

Remember, we are AMAZING!!!

If I had a magic wand, I would change many problems in the system.

I will be writing an open letter to employers, which I invite you to read too.  For employers to know people with learning disabilities better, and to know about how to employ us, they could then have a more equal and better workforce.

It’s getting dark now outside. I will be leaving the office soon to go back home.  I really enjoy the work I do now as I am speaking up for people with learning disabilities. I enjoy sharing my experiences with other people so we can improve how things work.  I hope that you find a job that you like to do and that it is your dream job.

And I want to share with you these words which I love by Simone de Beauvoir, they inspire me:

 “Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.”

 

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