written by Heather Pyne, 21st April 2019
As some of you will be aware I am a disabled company director. *silence*
If I haven't told you that before then you probably haven't noticed. I have learnt well how to hide my difficulties. I mean, i have got my disability management down to a science. I know that on work mornings if i eat 1 peice of toast I can have 7 mouthfuls of water. Just enough to stay hydrated and just little enough fluid that my food is heavy enough that it doesn't come back up. In fact, I can tell you the exactly fluid to food ratio i can tolerate with most meals. On non work days this doesn't matter. On non work days I can eat and drink what i like and if i'm sick then i'm sick but on work days it is vital i hide it. It goes so much further. Nipping out to the toilets to vomit and walking back in laughing that i really shouldnt drink so much cola. It;s slipping into the store room, claiming i need to get equipment when really i am just taking a moment out to double up in pain before a deep breath as i enthusiastically jump back into the hall. Silly me, i'm so disorganised right? You'd never suspect that i have deliberately left equipment in the other room so that i know i have an excuse to take a minute out when i need it. It goes even further.
This probably seems like excessive levels to go to just to try and appear to be a normal, functioning human being. It is. It is also what thousands of disabled people do every day and we do it because we have no alternative.
I actually became a company owner through needs rather than want. To most organisations I appear to be unemployable. I have an assistance dog and so my invisible disabilities are less hidden. I would walk into job interviews and get the 'aww your so inspiring for trying to work but you're not right for us' speech or the 'we are concerned you'd not be able to meet work demands' speech. After a handful of these speeches and a collection of quit and sacked jobs i realised that if i was ever going to be able to work and thrive in my life I had to hide my difficulties. Very few employers were ever going to set reasonable and accurate expectations for me. so if i realised that if i wanted to achieve anything work wise then i needed to be self employed, so no one elses expectations could hold me back.
In many ways i am glad of how things turned out. I am glad that so many people knocked me down because it reminded me just how strong i am but it also rammed home the discrimination and stigma disabled people face every day. I wasn't really aware of this before seeking employment. I am proud that i get to stand here now, in front of those who put me down and who set such low expectations for me because of my health and show all i have accomplished. I am a disabled company owner, I am a disabled volunteer, I am a disabled mother, I am a disabled student and I am thriving. So, all i now need from you is for you to adjust your expactations of me and other disabled people. Don't see a wheelchair user and think that person will be slow. Don't see mental health problems and assume that person will be unreliable. It is time you adjust your expectations of the disabled community because when you get passed the limitations you will meet a community that is filled with more passion, motivation and hope than you could have ever imagined.