#PurpleTalk is our campaign to drive conversations about the personal and business benefits of building disability confidence from the inside out. We do this by sharing stories and ideas from employees who are managing their disability or health condition and getting on at work as well as from the champions, allies and employers who support them.
Miriam Ibberson works for E-ON UK as a call centre agent acting as the first point of contact for customers calling the company. Thanks to E-ON UK, Miriam is currently on three month secondment to PurpleSpace working as a project manager. This is her story.
“I’ve been registered blind since birth, having some vision, until seven years ago when I no longer had any functional vision. Now I see only occasional shadows and can sometimes tell when it is light or dark.
I have worked in call centre environments for the last 13 years and my main challenges are usually getting my access technology (a screen reader) to work with organisation specific software or databases.
It takes some concentration to listen to a customer and a screen reader at the same time. I’m so used to multi tasking that I don’t really think of it as a high standard skill in myself – even though it actually is something exceptional.
It's not always easy to be confident and well informed, especially when you are dealing with a change, new diagnosis, or environment in relation to your disability, underlying condition or working environment or job role.
It is worth knowing that the more comfortable you are with your own disability, challenges and exceptional skills, the more comfortable others will be around you.
I also have issues around depression and seasonal affective disorder. I don’t like labels, but actually knowing what the condition was helped me deal with it. It’s just another label, but it answers some of my questions, such as why October mornings feel so awful.
Perhaps gaining a disability or underlying condition is a bit like going through puberty again.
You have to learn to love and respect yourself all over again, for who you are now, as the events of our lives do change us. We feel awkward, we feel sometimes confident of issues and then suddenly unsure. It’s a scary place to be. But just like puberty, with time, exploration, trial and error and communicating with others we can get through this.
It is often hard to speak up. I would recommend that you take the time to ask around and research any resources that may help you to manage your disability or health condition at work.
Look at what support organisations are out there. Link up with other people who have the same or similar disability, find out if your organisation has a ‘Disabled Employee Network’ or ‘Resource Group’. You may not feel comfortable about becoming part of a ‘labelled’ group, but remember that it is up to you how much you interact and what details you share at the beginning.
The other thing that has really helped me is that I had a life before my sight changed and I was determined that this was not going to change. I still wanted to try things such as abseiling, walking, cycling with the use of a tandem. Finding something that you enjoy and finding a way to do it is a great way to build up your confidence. Remember there is strength in learning new skills. Having to adapt is often a great way to build resilience and you may discover that you have skills you have never used before.