Next up is Beth, Quality and Assurance Officer for 111, who has a visual impairment. At this stage in Beth’s life, she is happy and open to talking about her disability, but it took many years for Beth’s disability to be correctly diagnosed.
Beth tells us, “Growing up, I was told by Alder Hey Hospital I would go completely blind by age 15 with a condition called cone-rod dystrophy. I was taught touch typing, and braille and even offered a Shetland pony (rather than a dog) as their life expectancy was double that of a dog, but so was the poo size, hence why it didn’t catch on! My diagnosis has changed multiple times growing up, as the doctors couldn’t understand why, at 18 years old, my vision hadn’t deteriorated permanently but rather yo-yoed. At 21, I finally left the children’s hospital and was put under St Paul’s Eye Hospital. There, I had more tests and finally, they settled on diagnosing me with Nystagmus, Night Blindness and Bilateral Ocular Hypertension.”
Beth joined Team NWAS three years ago and quickly realised, through the nature of the job, that she would have to be open to talking about her visual impairment. She said, “When I started at 111, it was my first job where I felt I needed to be honest and talk about my disability. The reason for this was not only for my health and wellbeing but for patient safety. With 111 being such a computer-intensive job, it was a big responsibility for 111 to consider someone with a visual impairment to do the job. I had to fight my own prejudice about whether a visually impaired person could do this job justice.”
After six weeks of training, Beth successfully passed her 111 training and was ready to get started. However, she encountered another hurdle. She told us, “I completed training only to find out the training system and the live system were very different from each other, which meant I could not ‘go live’ with my colleagues who were also successful. I was told that I would be unsafe to go online due to not being able to see the live system screen. For the first time, this made me start doubting myself. However, I felt determined to prove myself and others wrong.”
Through determination and support from the management team, she was finally able to do the job she had worked so hard for. She said, “A solution was finally put in place and I went ‘live’ on Christmas eve. With support from my line manager, I applied for help through ‘access to work’, a government-funded scheme that helps you get or stay in work if you have a physical or mental health condition or disability. Three years on, I am still here and have relished all opportunities to develop professionally, being part of the 111 Champions, a group of volunteers working to boost the wellbeing of 111 staff, and being successful in my promotion to become a quality and assurance officer.”
Now Beth is on a mission to educate people about disabilities to stop the stereotypes that people with disabilities face on a regular occurrence. She said, “Unfortunately, stigmas do still exist, and as much as we are all entitled to privacy, my experience tells me we all need to make a more conscious effort to step out of our comfort zone and allow room for positive change. I have come to a point in my life where I am no longer ashamed of my disability or keeping my disability private. I am on a mission to educate people and change their perception as to what it’s like living and working with a disability with the challenges we face daily.”