Written by Richard Keagan-Bull, Amanda Cresswell, Leon Jordan and David Jeffrey – Research Assistants, Kingston University
We are 4 researchers with a learning disability. Kingston University has employed us as proper members of the learning disability research team. They made it possible for us.
They ran a research course. The application process was accessible. The application form was in Easy Read, and the interview panel put us at ease. They employ support researchers to help us.
The latest person to be employed was David. He had help from Jo, the support researcher. This is because it is quite hard for people with learning disabilities to understand the process of applying for the job, and to cope with it. We found that giving information in Easy Read is not really enough.
We all get a lot of help from Jo and Tasha (another support researcher). They make sure we are doing ok. They talk with us about the job. They help us book taxis to get to work, and they help us with our emails.
We also get help from all our other colleagues: Irene, Becky, Andrea, Sarah and Jonny. Irene is the professor. She does our appraisals. Even our appraisals are in Easy Read. We are a great team. We call ourselves “The A-Team”!
This is what each of us want to say about working at Kingston University:
RICHARD: “It feels great making a positive difference to other people with a learning disability. We have the learning disability, we live it, we’re the experts, so that’s why we’re employed. We’re more than just a pat on the back and we bring so much to this job. Working here makes me feel good about myself wearing smart clothes, going off to do a day’s work, getting paid for it. I feel valued. I can now shop in places I never used to be able to. This job has opened doors for me. I get to meet different people like professors and training the nurses of the future. I feel part of society.”
LEON: “I didn’t know you could be a university researcher, so I’m really surprised and pleased. It’s a warm, relaxed, friendly atmosphere. At lunchtime we all sit together, as equals, sharing our news.”
AMANDA: “We can do anything we want to do in our lives if we have the right support. But not everybody will think of employing someone with a learning disability. Now other universities can see, LOOK! These people can work together as a team. Why can’t WE employ someone with a learning disability?”
DAVID: “I think it’s most important to have someone with a learning disability on a research team for their points of view and their experience of a having a learning disability. It would be more difficult to make discoveries about other people’s (with learning disabilities’) thoughts and ideas, if we weren’t on the team.”
Only 5% of people with a learning disability have paid work. Kingston University is a trail blazer by employing us. What we really like here is that people look up to us, not down at us. They treat us with respect. We feel proud working here.