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Disability Narratives

We asked people if they had any reflections that they wanted to share or advice for people with long term conditions or disability about working at the university.

The overwhelming response was to urge people with long term conditions or disability to talk to someone. This might include telling colleagues and managers or seeking support from occupational health or the Disability Support Service.

Asking for help

For some people, the first obstacle was recognising that they were not on their own and it really was okay to ask for help.

Click for Liz's interviewAsking for help is not always easy, but Liz found it helped to take things step-by-step.


Click for Maria's interviewMaria found that it was important to realise that she was not on her own and that she could ask for help.


Click for Richard's interviewAt first it might feel embarrassing to talk about your condition, but Richard found being open helped to resolve any issues he faced.


For many people we interviewed talking to their manager was one of the more difficult but most useful conversations that they had. Talking to managers can help the manager better understand what the person was experiencing. It also provided managers with opportunities to help, from providing "moral support" to referring staff to occupational health or getting in touch with the Disability Support Service.

Click for Ruth's interviewRuth advises talking to your manager, as they can help put measures in place to help.


Click for Verity's interviewVerity found that talking to her manager sooner meant she had access to support from occupational health or disability support services, which she needed later.


Click for Jo's interviewJo explains that it can take confidence and sometimes a little initiative, but it is okay to seek the support you need.


Some people described how they initially tried to carry on without informing anyone or seeking any help or support. Charlotte told us that she was able to find ways to keep going and by the time she realised she needed help, she was already very poorly. Being so unwell meant that she struggled to know what was best for her situation at that time and so seeking help just became another source of stress and anxiety.

Click for Charlotte's interview© Disability NarrativesCharlotte describes the difficulty of getting help when she was already very unwell.


To get the most out of a conversation with your manager, several people found they needed to be honest and realistic to themselves about their needs.

Click for Sue's interviewReflecting on her experiences, Sue suggests she could have been more realistic about what she needed sooner.


Click for Devon's interviewBeing honest with her manager helped Devon be sure that everyone was on the same page about the issues she faced.


Click for Maeve's interview© Disability NarrativesDespite all the demands from academic life, Maeve is clear about putting her health first to manage her epilepsy.


As well as getting support from their managers, some people we spoke to accessed help from other sources, including occupational health, human resources, and disability support services. Jo Z said, "I wish I had been referred to [occupational health] much sooner" as she was "really impressed with the support" they provided. Contacting these teams can cause some people anxiety, as Susannah describes, but she soon realised this was misplaced and they were able to suggest ideas she had not previous considered.

Click for Susannah's interviewTalking to occupational health provided Susannah with options she had not previously considered.


Advice for people who are newly disabled

There was particular advice for people experiencing or learning of a disability for the first time.

Several people had been diagnosed with dyslexia or dyspraxia later in life. This presented particular challenges as they reflected on the difficulties they had experienced at school and work in a new light.

Click for Lyn's interview© Disability NarrativesLyn reflects on the difficulties of being dyslexic and how she has come to accept that it is okay to “be who you are”.


Click for Paul's interviewComing to understand that he had strengths to offer was a big turning point for Paul.


Click for Ruth's interviewFor Ruth it was important to recognise what she had achieved and the ways she had found to successfully manage her condition.


Other people shared how they had to be flexible to the demands of living with a new disability.

Click for Gabrielle's interview© Disability NarrativesGabrielle explains that she tries to maintain a normal life, knowing her multiple sclerosis and endometriosis can always disrupt her plans.


Click for Liz's interviewLiz has found that she has had to be creative in adapting to “a world that no longer works for you”.

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