Jacquie talks about her experiences with disability, the benefits system and how people can have a limited view of her achievements.
“I volunteer in the front of house and reception. When I got made redundant from work after 32 years, I wanted to use the skills I had but I also wanted to do something I’d never done before and work with the public. I think you get more back, just talking and helping people.
Sometimes people have prejudgments about people with disabilities, that we can’t do certain things or that we don’t work. I’m willing to talk about my disability, to normalise it. For me, it’s part of who I am. It doesn’t completely define me, but it is part of me.
I was born with the condition, but I was diagnosed in my teens. It didn’t affect me much until I was 18 or 20 when I started using a wheelchair and stuff. To me it’s normal.
That’s what you forget, for people who are unemployed, how difficult it can be. You see on the news about the benefits system but until you do it first-hand…well, they’re saying it’s easy. It’s not.
That’s a hard thing. I’m signing on just now and it’s the first time I’ve had to. It’s so stressful, just the whole process. It’s set up to make you feel like you’re not really giving much to society but it’s just a time in your life where something’s changed.
When I first went to the Jobcentre, the girl made an assumption about whether I’d work or not, as if I didn’t want a job. I’m like, I do want to work, I’m actively looking. Maybe she thought I’d never worked. But she made that assumption. I thought, ‘you wouldn’t say that to somebody else’.
But it’s not all been negative, there are lots of positives. I’m looking forward to a new adventure.”