Could I carry a tea tray? Give me a break

Tracey Proudlock on November 3, 2016

Besides running Proudlock Associates, disability and inclusive design consultants I am a Non-Executive Director at Evenbreak. Below I explain why I joined the board of this social enterprise that backs talented disabled candidates that just need an even break.

‘Could you carry a tea tray in your wheelchair?’ was one of the most memorable questions I was asked when looking for a graduate job.

Tracey ProudlockIt was a deal-breaking query, the embarrassed HR manager explained carefully, because my potential new boss was an important, busy person who needed someone to make and carry his tea.

While I was born with my disability, it wasn’t until I graduated from University of Leeds in 1986 and started looking for work that my access needs became an issue.

On campus, as an undergraduate, friends and tutors always lent a hand to make sure I could make the most of my time at this fabulous institution. Their informal cooperation and workarounds helped me get where I needed to go.

I rarely thought of myself as a disabled person because I was too busy having a great time and studying. My disability didn’t seem to stop me doing what I wanted.

It didn’t take long to realise that recruiters didn’t see things the same way. I found it hard to get invited to interviews and selection days once I’d told employers I was a disabled person.

I was told ‘disabled people aren’t managers’ by the recruiter for a large company. He didn’t think the accountants’ graduate programme was ‘for me’. How thoughtful, what insight!

I remember being that new graduate hearing absurd objections about her suitability for a job: it has shaped my commitment to work with disabled people today who are looking for an even break, and the chance to win their dream role.

Are my stories about recruiters still relevant? We have the Equality Act and employers are more open-minded, so surely things have moved on?

Well, though we don’t have such shameless behaviour today, we can’t be complacent.

The lack of progress on disability rights is society’s ‘badge of shame’, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said recently, while calling for a renewed effort to promote disability rights.

Disabled people are still facing massive levels of unemployment, which are higher than any other group.

Working with Evenbreak gives me a new way to champion better equality and inclusion for disabled people in the workplace.

If you’re an employer wanting to attract top talent into your company, please get in touch with Evenbreak. If you’re a disabled person searching for work, then you’re in the right place!