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Disability Narratives

A disability or long term condition might affect a person’s working career in many ways. There are the indirect consequences included the personal and emotional affects that people experienced in relation to their condition or disability in the workplace. Some people told us about the concerns they had regarding the reactions and judgments of others to their condition or disability, and that this could affect how and when they talk about their disability with an employer (see also Disclosure). Finding the right role, one that brings out the skills and abilities of a person has been key to not only remaining in work, but having a fulfilling career. And others have had to make significant changes to their working practices, their role or even career, which many expect to continue into the future.

Personal implications

The impact on career choices or progression can come through small or indirect ways that a condition or disability affects a person's life. This can include how confident people feel in particular circumstances, or the way that some changes have implicit consequences. For example, Jan gave up driving after being diagnosed with epilepsy, which she says has "kind of affected my independence".

Click for Ruth's interviewAlthough growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia affected occasionally Ruth’s confidence, it did not stop her seeking career progression.


Click for Lyn's interview© Disability NarrativesLyn describes the effects of dyslexia on her confidence and how she sought to manage that.


Click for Stella's interviewStella reflects that mental health problems can combine with general worries when it comes to career progression.


Click for Jo's interviewJo wonders if declaring her disability has meant she has not been invited to interviews.


Click for Paul's interviewPaul explains that his anxiety can make a job interview a difficult process to go through.


Making big changes

Some of the people we spoke to told us how their condition or disability had, one way or another, had a profound impact upon their role or career. As Sue explained, at one workplace there was no possibility of being provided with a chair that would prevent the back pain she was experiencing. In the end, she said "I couldn't continue to manage the pain levels without doing something drastic. So I ended up leaving that job."

Milembe explained that before being diagnosed with cancer she was very busy with a full-time job, her part-time studies, and raising two children. She explained that this level of activity was not something she could return to saying, there is only "so much someone can do in 24 hours". Reducing her working hours was therefore a significant change to Milembe's life.

Click for Verity's interviewThe need for flexibility in working practices led Verity to give-up her previous role.


Click for Charlotte's interview© Disability NarrativesDespite having made some changes to her previous role, Charlotte found that she needed to take more significant steps to help manage her IBS and C-PTSD.


Click for Liz's interviewLiz worries that having a long period off work might affect her research.


Finding the right role

For a number of people we spoke to they explained how important it was to have found a role that made the most of their skills or abilities or that could accommodate the needs of their condition or disability. In some cases moving to such a role meant a significant shift in career or field of interest. Others noted how finding such a position enabled them to progress their career.

Click for Richard's interviewRichard explains that he was fortunate that his research interests were not too limited by his diabetes.


Click for Paul's interviewPaul found he struggled in some jobs but now has a role that suits his abilities.


Click for Kevin's interviewKevin sought to choose a career path so that his disability did not hold him back.


Finding the right role was not always easy or possible.

Click for Lyn's interview© Disability NarrativesLyn found that her new working environment had particular expectations, which sometimes needed to be challenged.

Click for Roberta's interviewRoberta reflects on how the working environment and the effects it has had on her health have not been worth the move.


Click for Frances' interviewFrances explains how she feels stuck in the wrong role, and unable to progress to one that emphasises her abilities.


Future considerations

A number of people we spoke to reflected upon how their past experiences of condition or disability – and the changes they had made to their lives or would need – might affect their careers in the future. As Jo Z explained, "If I decided to look for another post within the university, I think I would think twice about where I would apply. Because I would want to be sure I would get the same level of support".

Click for Lyn's interview© Disability NarrativesGetting a diagnosis of dyslexia in adulthood helped Lyn make sense of past difficulties at school and develop strategies for future learning.

Click for Devon's interviewDevon’s manager ensured she could continue to publish in her new role, so she wouldn’t lose opportunities for career progression.


Click for Susannah's interviewSusannah reflects on whether going part-time will have implications on her career.


Click for Stella's interviewStella reflects how seeking stability to help maintain her good mental health may have consequences for what jobs she can apply for.


Click for Maeve's interview© Disability NarrativesMaeve considers some of the practical issues that will affect her career progression.


Click for John's interview© Disability NarrativesJohn considers how working part-time may impact his future career.


Click for Gabrielle's interview© Disability NarrativesGabrielle explains that she is still exploring how her MS will affect her life and career progression.

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