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When an acquired disability leads to bullying

MegKnightMegKnight Posts: 4Member Connected
edited July 11 in Guest blogs

Megan is a serving police officer who is currently on long-term sick as a result of being in a vehicle accident it 2015 while on duty. As a result, she fractured the base of her spine which led to Complex Regional Pain Disorder (CRPS) and PTSD. She is currently studying a master’s degree in international public policies and volunteers with her local Girlguiding Organisation.

Adjusting to life with a disability has been challenging, finding myself hobbling through new obstacles on a daily basis. Some of these obstacles are glaringly obvious like the need for accessible buildings or better assistive travel provisions. However, many of these are disguised well within society, such as people’s perceptions and attitudes towards disabilities.

It has been three years since sustaining my disabling injuries, but it has only been very recently that I have begun to look properly into the assistance I am entitled to. For years I refused to accept support, desperately clinging on to what I thought was my independence and free-spirited nature. It has been far from an easy process of navigating the labyrinth of information out there on disability entitlements. Now I have come to see them not as a substitute for my independence or loss of identity, but as a necessary mechanism for me to exercise my independence and a new element of my identity.

I was not prepared for the indirect prejudice I faced within the workplace; many people perceive the police service as having rooted solidarity and pride in taking care of their own. This was something I believed before I returned with a disability, one which I must emphasise had occurred due to an injury sustained on duty. I can only speak from my own experiences, but the police service is lacking in terms of supporting disabled employees. I faced completely inadequate occupational health services. With no continuity of care, I found myself having to consistently repeat myself as the staff had no knowledge of my circumstances, with contact often being rushed or delayed. There was a distinct lack of knowledge when it comes to reasonable adjustments or accommodations, providing suitable equipment in my case took 9 months and I was repeatedly advised that I was on waiting lists, they had no resources, or it wasn’t in the business interest.

Returning to the workplace was difficult enough, due to no longer being on the frontline of a job that I genuinely loved. There were a few colleagues who made this even more heart-breaking. My disability was commented on, judged and not believed to exist even when I was hobbling around the office with my walking stick, my back brace was poking out at the top of my shirt or I had to leave the office in tears through pain both mentally and physically. There was also a lot of jealousy and alienation, for some I was being given priority treatment because my reasonable adjustments meant reduced hours or working from home. I became isolated and felt unable to be open and honest about my disability and how it was affected my work and myself. This severely damaged my mental health and the fact this was coming from my colleagues really hurt.


In October 2018 I travelled to Florida with my family. The main reason for the trip was to reconnect with family and spread my fathers’ ashes in a place he loved. It was a massive thing for me and one I was determined to do before my mobility deteriorates further. My nieces came along too, so of course we visited Disney and Universal. A colleague commented that “she can’t be that bad if she is going on holiday to Disney”, but it wasn’t a holiday like able individuals experience. There was a lot of planning involved, I was in my wheelchair most of the time, I had to arrange assistance, it was hard work.

It’s as if you’re not allowed to find enjoyment in life, you have a disability therefore you must be miserable and if you aren’t then you’re not really disabled. I have constantly been criticised for being ‘too functional’. Disability is very misunderstood in society and made worse by people not wanting to ask questions to educate themselves. I would be very open and honest if people asked me questions about my disability, in fact I would encourage it. The ownership shouldn’t be on the disabled individual to provide an overview of their disability, society should be taking an interest, asking questions, and educating themselves on how to support disabilities.

This is why I enjoy volunteering with children, they are direct, they are interested in things they can’t understand, and they ask you how it is. Adults can learn a lot from them.

Have you experienced judgement as a result of having a disability? What can be done to increase disability awareness? Let us know in the comments!

Replies

  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Posts: 2,443Administrator Scope community team
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this @MegKnight! This is a really powerful piece and I too think children can be great in being so brutally honest! I wish you all the best of luck with your Masters and please do let us know how you get on :)
    Chloe
    Online Community Officer
  • AilsAils Posts: 334Community champion Pioneering
    Hi @MegKnight and welcome to the Community.  This is a really insightful account of how you have found life since your accident so thank you for sharing it with us and raising awareness of this important issue.  I am sorry to hear you have faced so many obstacles and discrimination in your workplace.  That is awful and you would think that the police would know better and look after one of their own.  I hope you and your family enjoyed Florida.  It is fabulous there, isn't it?  I was also a volunteer with GirlGuiding for many years and the children I worked with were never afraid to ask about my disability and I was only too happy to answer their questions.  We can learn so much from children.  I wish you and your family all the best for the future.  :smile:
  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 691Member Pioneering
    Children can teach us so much if we paid attention. This is inspirational seriously. I freely invite questions. I was thinking of doing a Q and A event in October on here since it is Spina Bifida Awareness month then. Awareness and advocacy is so important. 
  • AilsAils Posts: 334Community champion Pioneering
    Having Spina Bifida myself, I think that is a great idea, @April2018mom.  Give me a shout if you need a help with anything as would be glad to.  I'm sure many of our members will benefit from this and you are so right when you say that "awareness and advocacy is so important".  :smile:
  • MegKnightMegKnight Posts: 4Member Connected
    @Ails and @April2018mom ; Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words. I must admit it was really cathartic to write and helped me deal with the prospect of being medically retired from my job a little better.

    Your Q & A event idea is absolutely fab! Please let me know if I could be of any help too.
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Posts: 1,843Administrator Scope community team
    MegKnight said:

    It’s as if you’re not allowed to find enjoyment in life, you have a disability therefore you must be miserable and if you aren’t then you’re not really disabled. I have constantly been criticised for being ‘too functional’.

    I found this to be a really interesting point @MegKnight. Thank you. 
    Glad to hear you found the process cathartic too. :smile:
    Senior Community Officer
    Scope
  • WaylayWaylay Posts: 827Member Pioneering
    @Adrian_Scope Me too. We can't be seen to enjoy ourselves....
  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 691Member Pioneering
    MegKnight said:
    @Ails and @April2018mom ; Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words. I must admit it was really cathartic to write and helped me deal with the prospect of being medically retired from my job a little better.

    Your Q & A event idea is absolutely fab! Please let me know if I could be of any help too.
    Thanks. I posted about it just now.
    Do you mind collecting questions or not in advance? 
  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 691Member Pioneering
    Ails said:
    Having Spina Bifida myself, I think that is a great idea, @April2018mom.  Give me a shout if you need a help with anything as would be glad to.  I'm sure many of our members will benefit from this and you are so right when you say that "awareness and advocacy is so important".  :smile:
    Do you want to participate or not? If you do wish to please message me for details. 
  • dolfrogdolfrog Posts: 106Member Pioneering
    edited July 14
    MegKnight said: I have constantly been criticised for being ‘too functional’. Disability is very misunderstood in society and made worse by people not wanting to ask questions to educate themselves. I would be very open and honest if people asked me questions about my disability, in fact I would encourage it  
    I can identify with this, I have have the Temporal type of Auditory Processing Disorder, a listening disability which is also the underlying cognitive cause of my dyslexia symptom. I have problems processing the sounds that my ears hear, inlcuding sound based communication such as speech. I only discovered th nature of my disability in my late 40s, and was the first adult in the UK with this diagnosis back in 2003, although i can see that previous generations of my family had to live with this communication disability. International research has indicated that 60% of dyslexics share my disability. The problem is that the so called medical professionals (audiologists, speech and language, psychologists) do not want to follow international research but only wish to massage their occupational egos and hide their ignorance, especially by using different terminology to describe the exact same issues. What some of us call Professional Auditory Processing Disorder (PAPD) they do not want to listen. 
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