THE BLOG

Telling My Boss I'm Disabled Should Be About Getting What I Need To Do The Job I Love

07/11/2017 15:07 GMT | Updated 07/11/2017 15:08 GMT

I'm a junior doctor and I'm on the training track where you change role every four months. I'm currently in a GP practice but previously I've been in various hospitals.

The change every four months is stressful and very challenging, because it's new people who don't know you, don't know why you're in a wheelchair, and are desperate to ask.

Normally the training is two years, but I'm doing it part time. It's a very strict criteria and a big process to initially apply. Then every four months I must resubmit my claim to work part-time, signed by four people and it's so much extra admin.

There isn't a clear system of who pays for Access to Work. It can be difficult to establish who is responsible when I change department, and sometimes hospital, every four months. At the back of my mind, I worry that my part-time status and condition will affect me getting a job for the next training stage.

I use a wheelchair at work quite a lot, and the rest of the time I wear knee braces with hinges. It's about being proactive and saying, 'I need this so that I can do this job well'. In all my applications, I've always been honest about my condition, because I can't hide it. But also, I can then direct them.

I and a friend run a support group for people at university with long-term health conditions. Our advice generally is that if your impairment or condition might become apparent in your role, it's better to be upfront about it. Put it in a positive way and ask for what you need.

I do get more tired, but I've also really learned to prioritise my time, and I've got lots of insight from being a patient myself. My patients really like that, because they know I've been in their shoes.

I've always taken the approach that if you tell people about your impairment or condition, you can set them up for how they think about it. It's about finding what it has given you in terms of life skills.

The important thing is that disabled people in all industries feel confident being themselves, and that they aren't missing out on crucial workplace adjustments which allow them to carry out their jobs.

Scope's new report Let's Talk found that nearly half of disabled people (48%) have worried about telling employers about their impairment or condition.

I've had almost entirely supportive responses from occupational health doctors, but I did once meet one who didn't know me at all and seemed very keen to dissuade me from using a wheelchair.

He was like 'we can change this role and we can tell them that you just have to be on one ward and you can't attend meetings and then you won't have to use the wheelchair.' And I was like, 'but then I wouldn't be doing the job'. The way he was about it made me think that he thought it was weird that I was using one.

But it's simple adaptions like part-time training and using my wheelchair which allow me to carry out my work. Without those, the NHS would have one less doctor and I wouldn't be able to do the job I love.

Scope is a charity that exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. For more information go to www.scope.org.uk