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Last updated: July 2017

My working life

Although I became medically retired many years ago, if you're disabled and looking for work you may well find this article useful.

I remember being at school - I'd be in my late teens - and wanting to work. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have big career aspirations, but I wanted the sense of pride which came with earning your own money and making your own way in the world. My confidence was also a little flaky back then and I thought employment would help me grow in confidence.

When I was 17, ASDA opened a new superstore about ten minutes from home and were recruiting new staff. I enquired about a part-time vacancy for me, not really knowing if any employer would or could take me on bearing in mind my disabilities. I think my main worry then was managing my fatigue around work.

CCTV Operating was suggested, and pretty soon I sat through an interview and bagged the job. They were very flexible in regards to drawing up my rota, and initially my rota didn't involve early mornings nor long shifts. As I was working in a brand new building it was fully accessible and I used my powerchair to get to and from work every day and I used it around work. Unfortunately I had a bulky rear-wheel-drive chair at the time though, so the walls and furniture took a bit of a battering, but all in all ASDA were very accommodating.

My job involved using roller balls and pressing buttons to control cameras, and communicating what I was seeing to my team over walkie-talkie radios. I will say that when I actually saw someone shoplifting I thought it was the most thrilling job in the world - the adrenaline rush was superb.

However after about 18 months I became fed-up and wanting new challenges I began speaking to ASDA about finding a new position. Mostly it was simply because the job was becoming quite mononous and it was quite a solitary job as I would spend long periods of time sitting in an office on my own looking at cameras. I was also finding the controls increasing difficult to use (wish I'd of known about Access to Work work space assessments back then) and I was starting to find it difficult to keep my speech clear and calm during the stressful situation of catching shoplifters.

After another 18 months I was so unhappy and unfulfilled that I decided I could take no more and handed in my notice - they could not find me another position despite my persistence.

I fully intended to find another job and straight away I went about registering with Remploy who help disabled people find work. However I didn't find Remploy to be of much assistance even though I persisted with them and attended their Job Club for a few months. I was also applying for jobs advertised in newspapers and attending interviews, all the while getting nowhere and frankly having a bit of a soul-destroying time.

After an appointment with the Disability Employment Advisor at my local Jobcentre, I was put in touch with a Shaw Trust representative. The Shaw Trust are another job-broker who help disabled people find employment. At long last it seemed I had striked it lucky. Within a few weeks of my initial appointment I was told of some placements that the West Midlands Police where offering.

I sent in an application form, attended an interview and was successful in securing the placement. It was a one-year temporary contract but the contract was tailored for me taking into account my slower-than-average output speed and fatigue issues. My employment here got off to a promising start. I went about arranging an Access to Work case which would contribute towards the cost of getting taxis to and from work.

I was data-inputting, but the work wasn't the sort where time is of the essence and I was able to work pretty much at my own pace which suited me. It also involved no phone-work which was another big plus. Pretty much straightaway my desk was swapped for a height adjustable one (I find normal desks difficult because I sit quite high in my powerchair) and automatic doors were fitted so they open at a touch of a button. I can't praise the West Midlands Police enough for being so accommodating.

For the first few months I was pretty quiet, keeping myself to myself and working people out I guess. But as time passed it became clear that I was working amongst some lovely people to whom my disability has never been an issue and who have never made me feel anything but part of the team.

I was fortunate in that my contract has been extended about three times, but it finally ended in August 2007 after over two years. I decided at this point to seek medical retirement. I have always been aware that, having a progressive disability, my days of being able to work would one day come to an end and I feel that day had come. I feel I'm a much rounder person for it though!

This website has been around sinse 1998, and although it's changed a lot over the years it's always been about me and my disability. Over the years I have used many different hosts and website design packages. For the past ten years or so I have used 1&1 as my host and I have always been very happy with it. I have always wanted to learn how to build a website from scratch using Adobe Dreamweaver, so about three years ago I got in touch with Polar Solutions and arranged for a trainer to come out to my home to teach me at my own pace. So I now design this website using Adobe Dreamweaver and the skills I learned on that course.