25 Jul 2013

No go work? How one chance restored my faith in equality

At work placements before, I had to sit in the corner because I was in a wheelchair and I wouldn’t be able to do it, right? Wrong, writes Paige Tabone for Channel 4 News.

Work experience for disabled people - hope of equality?

I’d never really had the opportunity to undertake a work placement before, not a proper one, not one where I could get my hands dirty and do everything regular employees do, writes Paige Tabone.

I always got the placement where all I was allowed to do was sit in the corner and watch rather than do the practical work because I was in a wheelchair and I wouldn’t be able to do it, right? Wrong. And charity Whizz-Kidz and The Telegraph helped me prove that.

I got the opportunity to complete a three week placement at The Telegraph. It was the biggest opportunity I had been given so there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to take the chance. I wanted to really get the sense of the industry I hope to work in one day and prove, not only to others by myself, that I have what it takes to succeed; as well as gain some invaluable knowledge from the professionals that have made a living out of it.

I was offered a job only to be told weeks later that I couldn’t work there and they should hire someone ‘normal’.

My expectations didn’t let me down and my time at The Telegraph was amazing; I got everything out of it I hoped for and so much more. I gained a real insight into the whole aspect of being a journalist but not only that I actually go to do something! For the first time I was given the chance to write, to prove myself, to be seen as a capable journalist on the same level as everyone else and that was definitely a highlight. I mean I got to write for and be published by a national newspaper, how much more of a highlight can you get?

The placement also opened up my eyes to how accessible the work place has become to disabled employees. I have had my fair share of bad experiences with finding work before. To cut a long story short, I was offered a job only to be told a few weeks later, by head office, that I couldn’t work there and that they should hire someone “normal”; so, in fairness, I was starting to lose faith in the whole “equality in the workplace” notion. The Telegraph changed that. They were so helpful and, at the risk of overusing the word, amazing. They made any adjustments I needed without a second thought and made me feel so welcomed and accepted and I grew so much as a person because of them.

Confidence boost

It sounds clichéd, but it is true, I gained confidence not only in my work but in every aspect of my life. I was able to use transport confidently and know that I could do things for myself. Due to this I feel so much more ready to go on from this and go to university and achieve all I want to achieve. I have got a foot in the door of a career I am now 100 per cent I want to go into and become a more confident person at the same time.

I would say to anyone reading this, wondering whether to do a Whizz-Kidz placement, what are you waiting for? Do it! Grab the opportunity with both hands and don’t let it go. Run with it get the most out of it as possible. You will gain great experiences, skills and knowledge; you will meet amazing people, make great contacts and set yourself up for whatever you want to do in life, all while having so much fun! Go on – what have you got to lose….?

Whizz-Kidz’s work placement scheme gives young disabled people a valuable insight into a number of careers, helping them gain experience, knowledge and useful contacts in their chosen field. Whizz-Kidz Ambassadors who have participated in a work placement have told us that it had a significant impact on them, giving them a greater insight into the industry they wish to work in and providing them with a clear idea of what direction they need to take to get there. They have also told us that taking part in a work placement has given them confidence, independence and greater determination to achieve their goals in life. In the last five years, 200 young disabled people have taken part in a Whizz-Kidz work placement and we hope to deliver a further 200 work placements this year.