It’s hard to accept that I have a disability. According to Wiki  ‘A Disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these” it also states  that “it substantially affects a person's life activities and may be present from birth or occur during a person's lifetime.‘

I don’t know how it happened, my consultant just said it’s wear and tear; my family and friends have other ideas, which seem to be related to certain activities I have participated in over the years that have involved motorcycle stunts, figure and speed skating, street gymnastics, fishing and kayaking.

I have a herniated disc and 2 prolapsed discs in my neck, these are pinching my nerves, which means I am in constant pain, this includes pins and needles in my fingers, a stabbing pain in my back and down my arms, a weakness in my hands, aching across my neck and shoulders, and sometimes a burning sensation over my total back area.  My disability has frustrated me and prevented me from doing the things I want to do, I forget that my grip isn’t very good and will drop things, and surprisingly (as I am known for having a fairly strong character) it has made me feel somewhat insecure and less confident about myself, and I find myself being over emotional.

Both the pain and the medication to relief the pain have drastically affected my work and productivity; I struggle to concentrate and suffer with fatigue and have been uncomfortable at my desk for some time. I do, like anyone with a disability, chronic pain or illness, know that I have good days and bad days.  However, I am proud of the fact that, although I do take time off when the pain is intense and unmanageable, I come into work four days a week, and work to the best of my ability and have achieved quite a lot during that time.

This past week I have been trying to get used to my voice recognition software for using my telephone and computer, it’s supposed to enable me to type and do commands on my laptop and allow me to carry out my job a little easier. I can use its hands free headset to make and receive calls, however, getting to grips the voice recognition software is something to be desired, maybe it’s my slight Cornish accent and the fact that I’m very self-conscious about talking into a microphone in an office with other colleagues, it doesn’t come naturally and at the moment I think it recognises only 30% of what I say! Practice and perseverance hopefully will pay off, it will make a huge difference not having to struggle to type my reports.

I have recently been awarded a grant from Access to Work; this is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support for people who have a disability or long-term physical mental health condition. Support can be provided where someone needs help or adaption beyond reasonable adjustment. An access to work grants can pay for practical support to help you stay in work or even support you if you are self-employed.

The process to get an award was relatively easy; After completing a short application form describing my disability and how it affects me I was contacted to arrange an appointment with an assessor. During my assessment I was asked a lot of questions about my symptoms, my day-to-day activities and my difficulties at work, it was difficult for me to think about, as I’d coped and developed techniques to enable me to do my job with minimum disruption. Then I was shown a catalogue showing various equipment and items that could help me, to be honest it was a bit overwhelming, there were so many items I didn’t know existed or that I needed until it was explained to me how they worked. The assessor then completed her form making recommendations of the items she believed I needed. I was also measured to within inch of my life! From the floor to my knee and across my hips, from my elbow to my seat and from my shoulder to my fingertips, and from the tip of my nose to the screen, this was to ensure I had the correct posture and optimal position at my workstation and that a new chair I needed would be suitable and fitted specifically for me.

I consider myself quite lucky; not only do I have some equipment to assist me, I have colleagues who are very understanding, helpful and supportive. They are not judgemental if I arrive a bit late into work because it has been difficult for me in the morning,  instead I am offered a cup of tea and help with my bag, all with a considerate concern for my welfare. I am not pressured by my line manager, we have good line of communication and I keep them informed about my condition. I can carry on working in the job I enjoy, and cope with my disability one day at a time.