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Thursday, 16 December 2021

Freedom to do a job

I've spent a lot of time this week, producing training materials to help my client and my team to ensure that their content is accessible once I'm gone. I am so excited about my new job but I'm also sad to be leaving SSCL. Just yesterday, I had a calendar invitation for a meeting on 4th Jan (after I've left) where they want me to review plans for an office renovation and input on accessibility. I declined the invitation and explained why. Then they asked the inevitable question... who will do this kind of thing once I leave? 

Rewind the clocks

I'm going back three years. I started this new job and my dream was to produce amazing eLearning, learn design skills and become skilled in using Storyline (software). 

What has stuck in my mind though, is the first email I got from a learner at the client organisation. They were trying to access a piece of eLearning with their assistive technology, JAWS. They had to complete this eLearning by a particular date but it wasn't built in such a way that it would read with JAWS. That was the beginning of a journey into the lives of real people, people like me, people who just wanted the freedom to do a job.


I face physical barriers every day. Most of them are not in the workplace. Most of them are not deliberate, in that there was no intention to prevent me from doing stuff. However, most of them are avoidable. For me though, they might as well put up this sign:

Red circle with red line though. In the middle is a wheelchair icon.

I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of compassion for the unnamed angry blind man at the other end of the email. My heart broke for him because I understood something of what he was experiencing. 

Freedom to do a job

In theory, disabled people can work. We have the right to work. However, there are many barriers. The barriers have historically been so big that some disabled people have given up trying. It's just too difficult!

I remember meeting many disabled people when I was in adult learning. I remember them struggling to explain to me why they couldn't work because of their disability. They struggled because I was the listener, sitting in a wheelchair, working. I was one of the lucky ones. I had people fighting for my freedom to do a job. But I absolutely understood all the reasons why they felt they couldn't do it. They had seen themselves too many times in the centre of that NO ENTRY sign. 

We have to tear down these barriers. It wouldn't be acceptable to deny access to any other minority group... not in this day and age. It shouldn't be acceptable to deny disabled people access either. We have to fight for the freedom to do a job.

I hope somebody at SSCL steps up to do all these extra accessibility tasks. I hope that one day, they will employ somebody specially to do it. For now though, I have to make this my focus. There are too many people facing no entry signs in life and work. It's not okay. We have to fight for freedom.

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