Fran Balon, Administration Officer and Recruitment and Career Development Officer for the Disability Network, and her adorable guide dog Sean, became part of Team NWAS back in 2019 and since then, she has been an advocate for disability awareness within the trust. She is sharing her experience to highlight the stigma people with disabilities still face to this day.
Fran has aniridia and glaucoma, eye conditions that mean she is registered blind and relies on her furry companion, Sean, to get out and about. Throughout her career, Fran has experienced stereotypical behaviour. She tells us, “As someone with a visual impairment, I have experienced the stereotype that, because I am ‘blind’ or ‘can’t see properly’, employers have assumed I can’t do the job correctly. They are often of the mindset ‘you can’t do that because you can’t see’ rather than focusing on what support or adaptions can be made to help me with my job.”
When asked about how this has affected her, she said, “The persistence of this stereotype that questions my ability, based on something that is part of who I am and can’t change, has made me feel frustrated, underestimated and that I have to prove myself on a daily basis. As well as imposter syndrome, these stereotypes have made me a perfectionist so that my ability and competence isn’t questioned.”
Now Fran is championing disability awareness, hoping to educate people on visual impairments and encourage them to be more open to learning about them. She explained, “If you never ask someone how you can help or what support they need, you will never know how you can assist someone who has a disability. Although it can be an uncomfortable conversation, it will be beneficial for both you and the person with a visual impairment. People who have a visual impairment, by nature are resilient. They have to adapt and use coping strategies every day in their life to overcome physical, organisational and communication barriers. I think it’s important to highlight that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or condition.”