Ability@Work is part of the Cope Foundation and is a supported employment service which aims to bring young people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism closer to the labour market. This programme assists jobseekers at key transition points between adult education, training and employment. To find out more about their work click here.
“Adult education really helped me get out of this slump. It helped me build up the confidence to be proud of who I am!”
My name is Craig Kelly and I want to explain to you how hard it can be for someone with a disability to get into college and then get a job... Someone just like me!
When I left school I went to Doras Training Centre. This is a Training Centre in the Cope Foundation for people with disabilities. Here I got a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 3 in Employability Skills.
When I first joined Ability@Work 2 years ago I was insecure and crushed from all the jobs I had unsuccessfully applied for and not been successful in gaining employment. It just seemed like nobody would give me a chance. I was out on my own.
It took a lot of work to pick me back up from the anxiety I was feeling about my future. I just thought I was useless and I’d never be anything.
I have now completed a Level 4 in Retail Skills through Ability@Work. I would like to work in retail. I would someday like to become a manager of a shop.
First of all, most of the jobs now you have to apply for online. I find this very difficult. To be honest, I needed the support of my Job Coach for online applications. Together we applied for loads of jobs online.
Other things that I needed support with were doing up a CV and getting ready for interviews. When I finally got an interview I was very excited. We spent a few days preparing for this interview. I felt ready to take on the world before I went into the interview. It was going great until I mentioned the fact that I had a Job Coach. They asked me what a Job Coach was. I told them they help people with disabilities find employment and I knew straight away they did not want me to work there or even hire me to give me a chance. I knew by the look on their faces... their faces just dropped. I was really upset because of this. I felt like a fool. I said to my job coach; ‘do I even have the confidence or heart to go to another interview because of getting denied and thinking no one would ever want me.’ Ability@ Work helped me through this because first I thought to myself I would be no good at anything. I’m still very nervous of interviews especially if there is more than one person there. That experience still sits in the back of my mind to this day. I’m literally waiting for it to happen again.
After a while in Ability@Work I was encouraged by my Job Coach to get involved in advocacy. I’m now the first ever President of the Ability Board. We are an advocacy group who fight for the rights of people with disabilities in education and employment. We help the Job Coaches with every part of the programme and everything has to be run past us before a decision is made. We are in the middle of an advocacy course at the moment with Ability@Work and AONTAS. We are training to be the voice for the voiceless.
“I have learnt now that having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of. The more we talk about it, the more it will be accepted.”
I have learnt now that having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of. The more we talk about it, the more it will be accepted. I have an invisible disability and I always found it hard when it came to the end of an application and the company asks you to tick a box if you have any disability. I never knew what was the right thing to do. Would they never accept me if I tick yes? Would they even meet me to give me a chance? Now I just always tick yes. I don’t want to work for a company who wouldn’t even interview someone with a disability. But it took a long time for me to get to this stage!
Adult education really helped me get out of this slump. It helped me build up the confidence to be proud of who I am! I just needed that small bit of extra support to help me through it all. The Advocacy course is definitely helping me with my confidence and the Retail Skills course has made me feel that I can really make something of myself.
“For anyone who is thinking of going into adult education. Take it from me. Just go for it!”
For anyone who is thinking of going into adult education. Take it from me. Just go for it! I am a person with a disability and I managed it so you can get there too. There is so much help out there for people who need it. For me it was Ability@Work but there’s lots of other people out there ready to help you. You will feel so much better if you get the courage to do it. Look at me... look at how much it has made my life better. I went from feeling worthless to being a president!
Challenges of COVID-19
For people with disabilities though, there’s still a lot more to fight for. It’s going to be even harder for everyone with COVID-19 but especially for people with different abilities because, as usual we will be the ones that will be forgotten about. The government will make sure everything is done for other people but we won’t be important to them. There are going to be loads of people looking for jobs now there will be too much competition.
I’m working on myself now so that it will be harder for them to say no to me.
I want the government to give us a chance and to show us change. I want them to start using words like ‘Ability’ instead of ‘Disability’. It will change how people think.
I just wish companies would put in their adverts: ‘People with different abilities are welcome to work here too’. Then it would make myself and others feel less nervous about applying.
The Government should make employers everywhere take on a certain amount of people with different abilities. It should be the law and people should get in trouble for not sticking to that law.
Change needs to happen because we are people too and we deserve the same chances as everyone else
People might not know this, but we have so much to offer! I want to see the word ‘Ability’ written everywhere.. We need posters, signs, TV ads, speakers, billboards, leaflets sent out to houses... Go all out lads... Change needs to happen because we are people too and we deserve the same chances as everyone else.
Thinking of returning to education as an adult? You may find the following resources helpful:
One Step Up: https://www.onestepup.ie/
Fetch Courses: https://www.fetchcourses.ie/
Cope Foundation: https://www.cope-foundation.ie/
Learn more about the Learners as Leaders programme and the European Agenda for Adult Learning on our EU Projects webpage.