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Disability Narratives

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Interview excerpt: Mary explains how the support workers that Access to Work provided helped her.

Image representing Mary© Disability Narratives

So Access To Work, as you probably know, is funded by Job Centre Plus. And it was difficult I think for that organisation to understand how an academic works [laugh]. So, when they gave me the support originally, it was hard to convey what exactly my needs would be, and that it wouldn't be appropriate just to get an hourly paid admin person from an agency. The university disability officer, Caroline, was extremely helpful in writing a letter explaining to them why that wouldn't work for me, and that I'd actually need someone with academic specialism. Because it's not just that they would be doing tasks for me, but they would have to make some kind of intellectual judgement on what they were doing. So, first year I had people - two different assistants. I think in the final year of their DPhil. And for three years I had a great young guy who'd just finished his PhD. and I've now got a fourth year PhD student. And that has made all the difference in the world. I'm not sure how I would have managed without the, that assistance, it's been terrific.

I got a very big grant from Access To Work at the end of the first year. And that included standing up desk, which I - So I work standing up, most of the time. And it also included various other gadgets. But the main thing, which was very expensive, is called a Pearl Camera, which you use with Open Book software. And this was really liberating in a number of ways. Because firstly it means that I could send a support worker to an archive, and they can capture text using the special camera. And I can then recreate the archive in my office. The first time the support worker did that, I almost cried.

That's what I work on. So that was a lovely moment. So it captures text visually in that way. But you can also use it to covert text to speech. It's slightly cumbersome to use the technology. It's not as seamless as you would imagine. I had to have a lot of training. So that was slightly annoying, that first year, getting - learning how to use it. But that, that has been great. Yeah. Really, really helpful.