Over the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing stories from staff living with disabilities who talk about the stigma they have faced both in public and at work, to raise awareness of the prejudices people with disabilities face and what we need to do to change the record.
First up is Claire Hunter, Positive Action Officer, who has dyslexia. Claire has experienced the stereotypical view that people with learning disabilities lack intelligence and have a ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude. She said, “I once asked my manager to proofread a supporting statement for a job application. They made a point of saying that they’d only gotten halfway through the first draft and when I sent the second draft, they gave up completely because of the lack of grammar, making it impossible for them to read. I never asked for their help again. It was the stereotype of just being lazy, believing I couldn’t be bothered to spell check my work when in reality, I do not recognise when I have used the wrong word no matter how many times I look over it.”
Claire feels that her learning disability hinders her from asking for help because she doesn’t want to stand out or be seen as a ‘problem employee’. She explained, “The stereotypes I have experienced throughout my career make me feel embarrassed. It took a while for me to admit I was dyslexic for fear of being overlooked for a promotion. Although I now have the support in place I need, I still sit in a room and if I have made spelling errors, feel like I am the weakest link in that room.”
Claire believes that through her job, she can influence change to stop the stereotypes. She said, “Within my job role, I have the power to shine a spotlight on all protected characteristics including disabilities and that’s what I intend to do. Yes, my own perception of what other people think comes from my own insecurities about my disability, but likewise, it’s time people really grasped an understanding of disability and learn about it. With the right support, I am capable and that’s what I want everyone to think and feel, not just those with a disability.”