The workplace barriers presented by the disability perception gap

When you learn that two thirds of the British public feel uncomfortable just talking to a person with a disability, you quickly realise why people with disabilities fail to receive the same employment opportunties as many others.

The sad fact is that they are twice as likely to be unemployed than a non-disabeled person. In the latest episode of the Breaking Barriers podcast we get an insight into how an incorrect perception of someone with a disability can unfairly result in a huge barrier to employment.

Aisling Gill-Dougherty is a 23 year old Politics and International Relations student at the University of Reading. She also happens to have Cerebral Palsy. In this episode we listen in as Aisling meets Josh Krichefski, the Chief Executive of Media Com UK, part of one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. Aisling is accompanied by Sarah Knott who is one of Aisling’s personal assistants.

The pair met at the Media Com offices in central London to discuss what it's like to achieve ambitions in the workplace without suitable role models; the practicalities of employing someone who requires a personal assistant to communicate effectively; and why employers attitudes towards disabilities need to change.

Aisling, her assistant Sarah, and Josh in discussion

One telling quote from Aisling really underlined the situation she's faced with on a daily basis: "Sometimes I think I should go around with my CV or my grades tattooed on my forehead, because of my speech people don't realise how educated I am." Both unfair and infuriating, the disability perception gap is something she has to contend with.

But what else did this episode teach us?

  • According to Scope, 85 per cent of young disabled adults say they feel lonely. Bearing in mind the stat around many people feeling uncomfortable talking to a person with a disability, you can understand how this comes to be. Hearing Aisling discuss her experiences at university, living with others students, particularly brought home the complications that arise in situations which many of us take for granted,
  • It's estimated that 70 per cent of successful people have experienced imposter syndrome and actual success tends to enhance these feelings. This unexpected tangent happened when Josh opened up about his own experiences of barriers in the workplace, demonstrating honesty rarely seen from an individual in such a high-profile position. "I have always, since I've been working, had a bit of imposter syndrome," explained Josh. "I'll think I shouldn't be in the job i'm in and somebody else should be doing it... that results in anxiety and time spent worrying at night."
  • There's a need for change in almost every business. "I think business has a responsibility to broaden the number of people with disability into the workplace," commented Josh. "So that people can be an example to others, so they can see that there is opportunity - and that they can get jobs and they can perform in those jobs. I think that’s something we all need to take on."

This week sees the release of the fifth episode of the series, which focuses on seeking asylum. You can search Breaking Barriers and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyPocket CastCastbox or where ever you get your podcasts from.


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