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International Day of Persons with Disabilities - Nikki Edwards

International Day of Persons with Disabilities - Nikki Edwards

Date of release: 3 December 2020

Latest News: International Day of Persons with Disabilities – Nikki Edwards

To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities today, we have spoken to members of staff who want to share their stories about disability in the workplace. 

Here, Nikki Edwards talks about how she lives with her condition, how it has impacted her working life, the response from her employers and fellow staff members and how those responses might have altered down the years. 

Job title: Lead Clinical Physiologist in Neurophysiology
Disability: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

What is your disability and what are your experiences of living it in the workplace?

I have been living with MS since 1991. My experience has changed along with the evolution of my condition.

At the start of the illness I had many relapses – as is usual with MS – meaning periods in hospital and off work.  

I was working in Manchester then and although my managers were tolerant of this, one of my work colleagues was not and actively did things to try to make me leave as she wanted my full-time job.  

How have fellow staff treated you in relation to your disability?

When I worked in Manchester, management did provide air conditioning, as at that time I had real problems when it was hot, but apart from that, nothing.

I have been working at the Trust for approximately 20 years (I came on a locum post for three months!) and I have had nothing but support from my managers in all the time I have been here.

If my walking was poor, in the early days, I would stay in the department, and I was allowed time for hospital appointments as I needed to go to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

I have had a progression of my disease over the last few years and now use my wheelchair for even short distances.  

I love the clinical side of my role and have been allowed to perform certain tests (sitting down?) as I cannot stand for many minutes.  

How have management and the Occupational Health team affected your ability to carry out your job?

I have been allowed to expand in my role. I report a large number of the investigations performed by the department and we now have degree and Masters (MSc) level students and, new for us, apprentices, so I’m involved in training as well as the management of the department.

I have had little input from Occupational Health as I feel well.

Have attitudes changed towards you over the years and if so, how?

In the early stages of my previous job and this one I did have some animosity from a couple of colleagues who felt I should have allowed them to have my role. But as staffing changed, this has never occurred since. 

I have a risk assessment in place which says I do not move or handle patients or stock. It also states that as a wheelchair user, I cannot stand for periods. 

I love my job and everyone at the Trust is supportive, just as I feel the people of this city are too. Everyone recognises me by my wheelchair!

I chose to continue working at the Trust during the first wave of COVID-19 for my mental health, as MS does often lead to depression.

I initially thought I would have to give up work at 40 but I am still here at 55, working full-time.

My only problem is disabled parking and staff parking in those spaces.

A Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham