During and following my undergraduate degree I found myself in various types of insecure work. Some of it was agency work, some of it was short term contracts and one job was on a graduate scheme. In some of these places being in a carpeted environment affected my health, and in others, it didn’t. In some places, I didn’t ask for adjustments because I didn’t need them. In others, I didn’t because my job was too precarious. I rationalised it by reminding myself that it just made me a bit wheezy, and I didn’t really need to work without carpet. These jobs had an impact on my health and my wellbeing, but I didn’t feel sufficiently disabled, sufficiently affected or sufficiently able to ask for those adjustments. My experience of how long and hard I’d had to fight as an undergraduate made me feel like it was just too hard. Especially in a job where I might get dismissed if I fought for myself.
Looking back it really makes me realise how much the fight with my undergraduate university took it out of me. It was demoralising and frustrating. The endless questions about whether I really needed to have a carpet-free room. The requests for justification. It was exhausting. I didn’t have the resources back then that I have now – and I didn’t know I needed them.
My life changed for the better once I had an understanding of the social model of disability, once I identified myself as disabled, once I knew other disabled people, once I understood something of the law, once I learned how to advocate more effectively for myself. None of these things was a silver bullet, but they were resources that I wish I’d had as a young person. I hope some of my writing helps other people to access some of those resources.