I applied for over 250 jobs before an employer even considered me

According to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), disabled employees earn on average 12.2 per cent less than non-disabled workers.

While this itself is demoralising, I believe the pay gap is only part of the problem. The real issue is that disability is a major barrier to getting a job in the first place.

After graduating, I applied for more than 250 jobs before I eventually secured my first role.

I personally made the decision to disclose my visual impairment on every single application and I believe this had an impact on my success rate.

Yet I’m glad I did. If a company would not accept me based on my disability, then I would not want to work for them anyway. 

The same ONS release found that 28.6 per cent of disabled people who are willing and able to work cannot find gainful employment. Which, given my experience, isn’t surprising. 

When I did find a job, I worked for a social enterprise dealing in corporate social investment who were based 30 miles from my home.

Despite the rural location and transport difficulties, I was determined that I would work and so accepted the job.

It took me an hour and a half to get in to work each day by bus, train and taxi. I was paid the minimum wage and the vast majority of my salary went on travel.

I was in the fortunate position of living with my parents at the time. I could therefore, just about, survive on such low pay.

But I am acutely aware that there are plenty of people who are not in such a position – and jobs such as these are simply unaffordable.

Especially since Scope research determined disabled people face, on average, extra costs of £583-a-month relating to their impairment or disability. 

When I lost my eyesight to a rare genetic disorder at 13, people’s opinions about me seemed to change overnight. 

I have since left that job, and I am now working much closer to home.

My current employers are incredibly understanding and supportive, frequently going the extra mile to enable me to succeed along with my colleagues.

A senior colleague told me the other day that having me has been eye-opening and the company have come to realise how I am not defined by my disability.

Many people I meet still think it’s incredible that I work. This should not be remarkable, but rather the expectation when a disabled individual is willing and able to enter employment.

When I lost my eyesight to a rare genetic disorder at 13, people’s opinions about me seemed to change overnight. 

I went from being a student who was thought to be able to achieve highly to being constantly looked down on and pitied because I could no longer see.

It was the school’s opinion that I would not attain eight GCSEs and university… well, why would I want to do that?

I was very fortunate to transfer to a specialist school where people believed in, challenged, and ultimately equipped with the skills necessary to achieve my potential. After school, I did indeed go on to gain my degree.

It was my belief when graduating that my past experiences would demonstrate my determination and resilience – standing me in good stead for the workplace.

And, in truth, it should have done. 

I should not have had to apply for over 250 jobs before I found one. The disability pay gap and the employment gap itself must be addressed if disabled people like me are to receive fair pay and opportunities. 

I know how hard it is to keep applying to jobs in the face of constant rejection. 

Employers need to be made more aware of the benefits that disabled employees can bring.

We are a great asset to the workplace and there is a great amount of technology in the marketplace that can assist disabled employees and the employers of disabled people.

I would love to see a day where there is no disability pay or employment gap. Ironically, there is a lot of work still to be done.

Virgin Media, Scope and Valuable have teamed up to lead a radical change in the way disability is valued by businesses. They are asking leading organisations to become more inclusive for disabled employees and customers. Join the #WorkWithMe community. 

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