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Patchworker Spotlight: Holly’s story
Holly is an award-winning blogger, freelance writer and disability advocate from York, UK. Registered blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity, Holly also has ME/CFS. We spoke with Holly to learn more about her experiences and thoughts on the vital importance of accessibility in the workplace.
To start, could you please tell us about yourself?
I’m registered blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity. I also have ME/CFS. I work as a Social Media Officer within the charity sector.
When I’m not working, I can usually be found tapping away at my keyboard writing articles for publications and creating content for my blog. Oh, and I also do a bit of radio presenting as well!
In my free time, you can usually find me at a concert (I probably go to way too many), making memories with my friends and family, spending too much time on the internet or reading a good book.
Can you tell us a bit more about your story?
I’m a university graduate with a BA Honours degree in Children, Young People and Families. Working within the charity sector is something I've had my sights set on for years, but I never thought it would actually happen. The fact that I’m now working for a charity that is extremely close to my heart is something that I'm extremely proud of.
Before working within the charity sector, I worked as an Assistive Technology Advisor at the university I graduated from – a role that I did for nearly 4 years. I’m passionate about accessibility and assistive technology and have a keen interest in content accessibility.
Have you faced any workplace barriers due to your situation? Do you think the ‘conventional’ world of work most employers use needs to change?
I’m very lucky to have had employers that have understood my disability and chronic illness, and done everything they could to put reasonable adjustments in place, support me and most importantly, treat me like my sighted colleagues.
However, things haven't always been straightforward. I've faced barriers accessing the assistive technology and equipment I needed to do my job. The slow waiting times for Access to Work meant that I was without the vital equipment and software I needed to carry out my role for several months, making it very difficult to do my job.
In regards to my chronic illness, it took me 6 years to get a diagnosis. This meant that it was difficult for reasonable adjustments to be put in place due to not having a formal diagnosis for so long.
I spent several years pushing on because it was the only way at the time. This had a huge impact on my ME/CFS symptoms and overall health. Thankfully, when I eventually got the diagnosis, I no longer had to push on and could get the adjustments I so badly needed.
If you could change one thing about the world of work or the way employers saw accessibility, what would it be and why?
Remember that accessibility enables us to do our jobs in the same way as everyone else. Accessibility makes a world of difference for everyone. I'd like employers to take the time to educate themselves and ensure that disabled people have equal access in all aspects of employment, right from the recruitment process. Listen to us, don't be afraid to ask questions and please take note of what we say. I don't want employing a disabled person to be seen as 'hard work' or 'not worth it' because we can bring so much value and talent to your organisation. Don't dismiss us.
What inspired you to start doing the work you currently do?
My lived experience of vision impairment and disability inspired me to start my blog, which then led to freelance writing work and other opportunities. I found myself using social media to share my story and engage with the disability community. Ever since, I've wanted to use my lived experience to strive to make a difference and I am now doing that in all areas of my work.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your career to date?
Strive to achieve your goals, because you can make them a reality.
Do you have a favourite quote or personal mantra?
Just be true to who you are.
If you could change one thing about people's perception of disability, what would it be?
To see us as who we truly are. Our disability is a huge part of our lives, but we are so much more than our disability or chronic illness.
Find out more about Holly’s story:
Holly’s Blog, ‘Life of a Blind Girl'.
Life of a Blind Girl Facebook Page
Published: 18th February 2022
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