Sunday, 16 February 2014

Beyond First Impressions - Disability and Employment

Beyond First Impressions.

Last night I was watching one of my favourite tv programmes on iplayer, Death in Paradise. I was delighted to see that the new DI is clearly dyspraxic; clumsy, disorganised, sensitive with, of course, a brilliant mind.

I woke up this morning thinking about  how hard it is for people with dyspraxia to make a good first impression. I remember attending an interview  for a  youth worker post  in Coventry many years ago, on my way in I fell up the stairs and spilt coffee all down me. It can be hard to recover from a start like that as inevitably people pass judgement, and this was well portrayed in Death in Paradise. Interestingly the Telegraph describe Kris Marshall's  character as Shambolic.

I'm a member of some Dyspraxia forums and the question is frequently asked  "Should I declare my dyspraxia on the application / at interview?"  That is such a hard issue as still most people have no idea what dyspraxia is, or what it means to provide reasonable adjustments, and I don't know the answer. 

Obviously this does not only apply to Dyspraxia. During World Autism Awareness Week last year  I was shocked to read that only 15% of adults with autism were in full time paid employment .  Clearly the autistic spectrum is broad, but still that tells me that many of our finest brains are sitting at home, living on benefits, probably bored with poor self esteem, when their skills could be put to good use.  I know that the same applies to Dyspraxia with many graduates unable to get, or hold down a job. 

It seems to me that we need a little rethink here. I went self-employed to deal with this issue for myself - and I have a series of posts  from others that did the same here .  Whilst I would totally recommend that option, it isn't right for everyone, so what would need to happen for employers to shift their thinking regarding what a good balanced workforce looks like?

I had the pleasure of seeing  Phil Jones, MD of Brother UK, talk  at Lancaster University last year. He is the first entrepreneur that I've heard talk about his shift from lack of awareness and frustration to embracing the skills of those that are wired differently to himself. He was so inspiring that last  weekend I asked him to put those thoughts in writing and being a good bloke he did just that. It's a good read and you can see it  here

I would really like to see us open up a debate on disability, diversity and employment.  The world has changed, remote working is totally viable and the digital world has completely changed the landscape of possibility. What would need to happen to enable employers to see beyond that first impression? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please do leave your comments below, or email me

Jane x

Jane Binnion is a trainer and writes and talks on the issues of diversity, social media and ethical trading. 

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