10 July 2017 | Josephine O'Connor
I read the last edition of FM World with interest as my own health has deteriorated.
Now 51, I permanently walk with a stick. I have many doctors and hospital appointments to monitor and treat my conditions. On a bad day I may be housebound or have to use a mobility scooter; on a good day I can walk around 3,000 steps. My employer, Vinci Facilities, is excellent and recognises that being registered disabled presents its challenges.
I have been turned away from meetings because there is no access for me. I cannot use stairs, so meetings need to be on the ground floor. In one London borough I was told, "This is 100-year-old building, of course there isn't a lift!" leaving me to attempt the stairs (in pain) while everyone watched. On another occasion when a lift was out of action I couldn't participate in a meeting because there was no back-up plan. I've even had to opt out of a TV interview after winning an award because the venue couldn't accommodate my need to be accompanied within the building via staff lifts.
And disability often comes with pain. Pain management is personal and can affect a person's ability. That's why you sometimes see a person need a walking aid one day and not the next. I am able to work full-time because my employer enables me to juggle my treatments with my workload. I have no doubt that if they did not I would have to give up work for a life on benefits.
When you're disabled everything impacts, from the chair you sit on in a meeting to the journey to get there. I can no longer use public transport, as I am not strong enough to stand or be jostled. I have no choice but to drive, so need to park near where I am going. Central London appointments are simply no-go! Thank goodness for videoconferencing.
But there's nothing wrong with my brain and I have much to contribute. Please don't look down on me or judge me but listen to what I have to say - you might learn a thing or two.
Josephine O'Connor is business & community investment manager at Vinci Facilities