* Disability in the workplace: ‘we’re not rain man’


A short video from The Guardian online which interviews a women who as Aspergers, dyspraxia and cerebral palsy about working in a university library.  I see this as a great example of a first hand account of the experience of disability. It is good to see this first hand perspective being posted on a prominent mainstream website such as The Guardian.

The video brings up a number of issues.  Firstly, the description of the video uses the words ‘despite having Aspergers, dyspraxia and cerebral palsy’.  The word ‘despite’ puts a negative connotation to having Aspergers, dyspraxia and cerebral palsy – in spite of having these conditions the woman still manages to be employed.  The purpose of this description is to get people to view the video – looking critically at the description it could be assumed that the writer thinks that people will only want to view the story because of the ‘inspiration’ that the woman provides. A value neutral description could have been written like this:

Penny Andrews has recently been employed as a graduate trainee librarian at Leeds Metropolitan University. She has Asperger’s syndrome, dyspraxia and cerebral palsy and beat over 200 people to her post.

Another issue raised in this video is that of stigma and how media can promote inappropriate images of people who have Aspergers.  The woman on the video talks about not being Rainman or Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.  She also comments that it took her 6 years to find her current job and a big challenge is to change employers perspectives about disability.  Meaningful employment opportunities can be very hard  – this video could be a good tool to begin changing some of the views held by potential employers.

Finally I like the fact that this video talks about the facts ( e.g. the need for reasonable adjustments and the need for equity and diversity policies) without the placing any value on the disability.  The woman is not used to ‘inspire’ others and her disability is not talked about as something medical that she needs to overcome.


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