Category: Industry News, confident, concentrate, frustration, restricts, destroy, punctuation
The Diversity and Inclusion team at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has launched a new campaign called ‘Becoming Disability Confident’. Part of the campaign is to make sure that disabled colleagues are fully supported and empowered by disability confident leaders and managers.
Mark Thomas explained what it’s like to live and work with a disability.
Can you describe your disability?
I suffer with Dyslexia; some people think this is just something relating to reading and writing or where words move or letters get jumbled up. Dyslexia goes further than that and can affect people in so many different ways.
I have Phonetic Dyslexia; this means that when I write I spell words as they sound. I do not have the ability to understand silent letters, for example ‘Know’ would be spelt ‘now’ in my world.
This also means I struggle to be able to read and where most people would read the whole content of a paragraph I only see it word for word. I also find it hard to concentrate and stay focused especially if I am distracted or have no interest in the subject.
Another issue is short term memory. This is so frustrating, the only way I can describe it is; have you ever gone to get something upstairs or into another room and forgotten what you have gone in there for? I live with that all the time, forgetting things is a constant issue for me.
Do you find it restricts you in anyway?
Yes, I put off anything to do with writing or reading. I have two children aged eight and four, when my eight year old daughter asks me to read a story and I struggle with some of the words which are in her reading book, it destroys me.
How has this affected you?
Living with this condition is so frustrating, not only for myself but my family as well. I often have to say, sorry I forgot, how do you spell that? Or will you put in all my punctuation. I may even come across as very abrupt and when the frustration builds it can affect my temper. Learning to understand my temper has been a huge learning curve for me.
How do people react once they are aware of you disability?
I am quite open with my disability these days as I feel people should know how my world works.
I’m not always sure people around me totally understand my problems, I’m grateful to have my team around me - they’re always there for me.
What problems have you encountered on a day-to-day basis?
The obvious ones are reading and writing. I find listening to music helps me focus and concentrate, it allows me to close off the world around me and helps me get through my work.
If I need to remember to bring something to work I have to put it in the middle of my hallway so I walk over it on the way out of the house.
How easy was it to find help?
Well I have to say that there have been ups and downs in getting help, I don’t think it’s always as straight forward as it could be.
I’ve since completed a workplace adjustment passport. It’s something which can move around the Agency with you, can constantly be reviewed and is there to support you as an individual.
How have you been helped?
I have software on my PC which will write for me; it’s simple, I talk into a headset and the computer writes.
What more do you think could be done?
A disability is not always seen and over the last few years we have learnt more about different disabilities. I feel that the way the recruitment process is at the moment means the Agency could be missing out on opportunities. I understand that there is work ongoing at the moment to look into this and it will be interesting to see the outcome of this work.
Are there any other support mechanisms in place that you have found useful?
The best advice I could give anyone is to have a conversation with their line manager as they can support you in so many ways. I have also used DVLA’s Ability Group and found them really useful as they are aware of what support may be out there for you.
I spent a lot of my life hiding my disability as I was embarrassed; I now understand that there is no normal and that each of us are different. It’s a struggle, but I always try to work at ‘being better not bitter’.
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