I started a Bachelor of Arts a few months after high school and was the model student, with a propensity for caffeine induced procrastination. Most of my time was spent navel gazing, and basking in the sun. My peers at university, accepted my intellect separate to my disability. I was accepted on merit and received high marks. One could find me in the library sitting on the floor surrounded by books. I was also intimately acquainted with the cobble stones on campus and, unlike other students, alcohol or mind altering substances were not to blame. At my graduation ceremony, rather than use the stairs with my peers, I was able to walk up the ramp behind the stage. I assumed the staff didn’t want me to crawl up the stairs, prolonging the ceremony and showing off my undies. At the side of the stage, anxious about tripping on my bat cape, I heard the Chancellor call my name. My heart pounded, dodgy legs proceeding to carry me across the stage. My head suddenly felt lighter - my graduation cap had fallen off! However, I continued marching forward, my cap remaining awkwardly on stage behind me. The Chancellor appeared a mix of beaming and perplexed. Perhaps thinking “we awarded you with a degree?’’ As I chuckled to myself, I thought of the response, “Yes you did award me with a degree! No backsies." When I saw my mum, she gave me the warmest hug, then she released exclaiming, “quick, find your cap or we’ll have to pay for it!” Emerging from a university environment, feeling accepted and valued, was in contrast to the job market where I felt rejected. I started this blog series professing to be a procrastinator, but the truth is I was extremely conscientious. I worked at my PC in the middle of the night, sipping my luke warm tea through a recycled straw. It was ingrained in me to work twice as hard as able bodied people in order to gain an equal footing. This notion would have serious consequences later, when overworking impacted upon my health. I am a socialist, feeling ambivalent towards capitalism, and yet I am eager to earn a crust. I have always yearned to be a productive citizen and imagine Karl Marx to have had a similar feeling. Unfortunately, my dream was thwarted by discriminatory attitudes held by employers. Perhaps after graduating I had false expectations and whilst the stereotyped outcome of gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree is ‘do you want fries with that?’ I seriously doubt a fast food chain would hire me. The unpredictable nature of my movements would leave a trail of chips on the floor, with burgers being transformed into meat patties and salads. My career in the fast food industry would likely solve the obesity epidemic! After a year of relentlessly applying for positions, I decided to enrol in Social Work at university. I studied this for two years, switching to a Bachelor of Social Science and then obtained an Honours degree. I naively believed degrees would be automatic tickets to work. In my experience, many employers have an entrenched idea that people with disability are not viable, Not only is this a fallacy, it is downright insulting. I also believe a perception exists within our general community that people with disabilities are unproductive. Recently, I was at a club for lunch with a group of people. One of them, not known to me, asked in a condescending tone, “so what do you do all day?’ I took a deep breath and told her “I’m a contract researcher and writer”. I felt rage simmering inside of me; it was as though she assumed I didn’t have a profession and that I just play with sock puppets or indulge in day time TV. Most of us with a disability do work, however, we often sneak through the back door to do it. Before I wrap up my diatribe, please consider my potential for working in the fast food industry. If you are looking to hire a worker excelling at food spillage, please contact me. My aspiration has always been to become a productive citizen. The trajectory towards this goal has never been straight forward. I have encountered many obstacles along the way. Are you curious to hear about my unpredictable journey to employment? Stay tuned for further blogs from me in 2020.
About Lauren: Lauren Hislop is a social researcher, writer and a passionate disability advocate. She has been a blogger for various organisations. Lauren has been known as a professional uni student. She is a member of HWC, living in Newcastle with her partner.