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Disability Narratives

We asked people about the informal or non-workplace forms of support that they drew upon. Although this was not our main focus, we want to locate people’s experiences of long term conditions and disability within their wider lives. Some people explained that they sought to manage their condition privately. Others said they neither needed nor required or had access to much support from friends or family. However, for others friends and family were an important resource to draw upon to support the emotional and practical labour they had to undertake to come to work each day.

Click for Jo's interviewJo explains how her husband and friends provide her with practical and emotional support.



Click for Verity's interviewThe emotional labour of getting through a day at work meant Verity relied on the practical and emotional support her husband provided.



Click for Susannah's interviewHaving a good network of family and friends online and face-to-face has helped Susannah.



Click for Liz's interviewLiz’s disability has had implications for her husband and family.



Conversations with friends and family helped some people understand what it was to live with a long term condition or disability. As Lyn said about finding out she has dyslexia, “it was helpful that my friend could see it, and knew it. And she still is my friend”. For others family could challenge the diagnosis they had been given, as Frances found, “And when I told my sister and brother about the dyslexia, it was ‘Oh, you haven't got dyslexia.’”

Click for Lyn's interview© Disability NarrativesFamily and friends helped Lyn explore some of the implications of being diagnosed with dyslexia.


Click for Maria's interviewMaria describes how it has been hard for her daughter to adapt to the changes in her life since she lost her sight, but how she has found the kindness of strangers to be a positive.


Click for Susannah's interviewFriends’ attitudes to sickness can also (unwittingly) be frustrating, as Susannah recounts.


Friends and family can also encourage people to seek help from professionals. Charlotte explained that a friend suggested she should see if occupational health had a specialist in mental health to support her with her Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frances got help from the union, an idea she got from “My sister [who] suggested that I join the union, which I'd never done before. And so I did.”

Some people found that building up social networks of friends was helpful, especially those who had moved to the city for work. Various forms of social networks were suggested such as, joining sport or activity based clubs, socialising websites that help arrange face-to-face outings, or the university’s Oxford Research Staff Society [link to Resources].

Click for Stella's interviewStella describes some of the benefits she found from extending her social support networks.


Support groups

One type of non-work support that some people used were formal or professional support groups. These include therapeutic groups, such as counselling or mindfulness courses; specific condition groups related to charitable organisations (see Resources page for details); and the Staff Disability Adviser (See Staff Disability Adviser) along with the meetings and online discussion groups (e.g. Disabled Staff Network, see Resources) available there. These could provide a useful place for some people to learn new strategies to manage their condition. Sometimes this came via formal classes or the meeting people with similar conditions.

Click for Lyn's interview© Disability NarrativesMeeting people with dyslexia helped Lyn to recognise the diversity of her condition, as well as learn new ways of coping.


Click for Jo's interviewJo explains some of the support she was able to get from the disabled staff network.



Click for Paul's interviewThe support Paul got helped him understand his anxiety and develop some strategies help to manage it.


Click for Maeve's interview© Disability NarrativesAlthough the charity Maeve approached offered little to support her, she found it helpful to talk to the people she met at a meeting she attended.