International Day for Persons with a Disability: 'Working makes me feel important'
Today is International Day for Persons with a Disability and Una Coates would like to see more supports and career guidance to help foster inclusion
My job means a lot to me because it makes me feel like I'm important, important to myself and to the people I work with.
When I first started in Musgrave - the Irish food wholesaler - I was there on work experience to try it out, to see if I liked it. I really enjoyed the experience of working in the office and I made new friends. A week later, I was told that I had an interview for a permanent part-time job. I passed the interview and one month later they called me back in to tell me that I got the job in Musgrave. I have now been in employment for 13 years. Every week, for two hours on a Friday, I do the post with the franking machine, I highlight documents and I do some filing.
When I first did the interview for this job I had no confidence and when I started the permanent job, I was a little nervous, but I knew that I had passed the interview. I also knew that my employer had confidence in me. It changed my life and I have grown very close to my co-workers.
I learned a lot when I first started. I didn't know how to work the photocopier, I had to ask for help with the machine before I got used to it. The post was also new to me. Then I learned how to file and highlight documents. These are all skills that I have learned working in my office. I'm great at time management and I dress to impress. I like to have a professional attitude and to look professional in the workplace.
I have had amazing support over the 13 years. My job coach, Fran, has been very supportive. He helped me to get the job interview and supported me to prepare for it as well. But Fran isn't just my job coach, he's been my friend since day one.
Make employment work
Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Inclusion Ireland's self-advocacy sub-committee is hosting an event in Liberty Hall on employment, sponsored by SIPTU.
The sub-committee, which I am a member of, is made up of people with an intellectual disability and this group advises Inclusion Ireland's Board of Directors. We decided that employment is the number one issue for people with disabilities in Ireland right now and that is why we have organised this event.
People with disabilities need support and career guidance from their support workers to find a good job, but before you get a job, you need education to have independence in your employment. You also need learning tools and to know how to work in a team.
Attendees will be able to see what we are all about, they will be able to get information about how people with disabilities can get a job and what their rights are. On the day, we will hear from people who have found a job or who have found it difficult to get a job discuss what employment means to them.
Services that support people with disabilities should attend this event because they can learn how employment is working for some disabled people. They can come along to see how important employment is to people with disabilities.
The Department of Transport should attend so they can understand how difficult it can be for people with disabilities to manage their time when using public transport. The Department of Education should also join this event so they can learn how to prepare people with disabilities for getting a job.
The right supports
It is difficult to find a job when you have a disability. Sometimes when you are in a day service, barriers are put in front of you. You aren't respected or treated as an equal but people need to be heard to get the job that they need.
You need to get some help or support to find a job, to look after your health and to look after your welfare. Even when you live in the community, it's still hard to look after your money.
I put my wages into my savings to keep them safe. It is very important to me to have my own money. My money allows me to socialise with my friends and to go to social events. I use my own money on my own activities.
I can see myself working in media in the future. I love to write and I could create blogs for websites. I have experience in public speaking, I'm good with important and famous people, and I'm great at taking photos as well. I'm a kind person, outgoing, fun and I love to be around people who adore me for who I am.
With the right supports, I know this can happen.
Make Ireland Work is at Liberty Hall, Eden Quay, Dublin 1 today at 10.30am
Health & Living