Joey is neurodivergent, and an Employer Engagement and Events Assistant in Careers and Placements. In this video, he discusses his experiences of getting good work-life balance and self-advocating for his needs, what disability pride means to him, and the ways that non-disabled people can support disabled people, in the workplace and beyond.
I've been here for five years. I'm currently finishing my Master's degree in Environmental Science and Management, where I'm the course rep as well. Alongside that, I work for Alcuin College as a College Life Advisor, so I’m both staff and student.
I've got a couple of different disabilities. I broke my back when I was 17 and struggle with lasting chronic pain and mobility issues from that. I’m also diagnosed with hypermobility, so sometimes my joints don't quite do what they're meant to do, which has made my degree quite interesting, because staying on my feet can be quite difficult. And then I've been struggling with my mental health since I was about 12, so I’m an advocate for mental health and understanding around that.
How does your disability affect your work or your life?
I think it changes every day. You'll probably get this from anyone you speak to who has issues with chronic pain and chronic fatigue, but trying to get people to understand that you are always in pain is really interesting.
Whereas people who don't struggle with that might slip and trip and really hurt their knee one day, and that's the worst pain they feel all day, that's a general five for me - just my normal working life. And then some days everything goes a bit wrong and you wake up and you're in so much pain that you can't really move. Being a student that does a quite physical degree has had its challenges in the past, and has meant that at some points I've had to ring my lecturers and say that I can't come on this field trip cause I can't physically get into campus. Generally they've been really good about it though.
I'm quite lucky in that I work at a desk job at the minute, so I can do my work from home if I need to. But I can also sit and not have to run around after people, which is a difference from working hospitality like I used to. It's definitely interesting trying to explain it to non-disabled people; that you are never not in pain, just some days are better than others.
What does disability pride mean to you?
I think it's really important. I spent years trying to convince myself that I wasn't disabled, especially because where I grew up, there was so much stigma around the word disabled and disability. I was diagnosed with my joint issues when I was a baby, and then breaking my back kind of exacerbated a lot of that for me. It was only really when I got to university that I started to accept disabled as a label. Disability pride is something that I've become okay with and had to teach myself, but if we can push it more now then people that are growing up in similar circumstances to how I did aren't gonna feel so ashamed. It's taken me so long to accept, and there's been so many resources I could have accessed as a child as well - I could have been so much better at my exams if I just acknowledged it earlier on.
I think internalised ableism is a thing that so many disabled people have. People with some form of disability, whether it be mental or physical or hidden or invisible, struggle with ableism anyway, but the internal voice is often quite a lot louder. Getting used to that and accepting it in myself was a bit of a journey. I don't care now if people call me disabled - I call myself disabled. And if people like us can go out and do what we do, which is so much harder than anyone who's non-disabled, hopefully the more that's in the public eye, the more it becomes a normal thing, then the fewer people are gonna grow up feeling ashamed of themselves and their own limits.
What do you wish non-disabled people knew about being disabled and Disability Pride?
Just having a little bit more patience is really key. Many of the issues that I have come with a lot of things like brain fog and being a bit slower. Sometimes I really struggle to hear people, and then get people getting really angry at you, because they think you're staring. But I'm lipreading - it's not rude, I just can't hear you if I don't lipread because the words don't quite go right in the sentence! Having that bit of patience before deciding that someone is being slow, or if your email hasn't got a reply straight away is really important.
You don't know what everyone's dealing with, but also ask rather than assuming. I don't use mobility aid, but sometimes I limp quite badly - it's normally that my hips or my knees have dislocated and I'm in pain - often people make some form of really off-colour joke or assume things. If you're not sure, generally we’re nice people, ask us about it, instead of sitting there thinking we’re lazy or trying to get out of things. Just have a conversation with us - I'll give anyone all the time in the world to talk about disability and all of the resources that I know if you wanna learn about it, but I can't do that if I don't know that you’re interested! The support from non-disabled people, to people who are struggling is really, really important. Even if you're not impacted directly by other people's disabilities now, it doesn't mean you won't be at some point in your life, so be a bit nice to people.
Chloe is a postgraduate student, currently studying an MA in Poetry and Poetics, and about to start a PhD in English with Creative Writing. In this video, she discusses her experiences as a student living with Fibromyalgia and Bilateral Hip Dysplasia, her thoughts on Disability Pride, and the real impact of a seemingly hidden disability on her day-to-day life.
Ash is an undergraduate student studying Archaeology whilst living with multiple disabilities that affect both xyr physical and mental health. In this video, xe talks about their experiences with accessing education and healthcare, and living with multiple conditions.
Julia is a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry who researches chemistry education, as well as the departmental disability lead. In this video, she discusses her journey to accepting her disability, from childhood to now, and her experiences as a disabled academic.