By Debbie Talbot
I lived an active childhood filled with wonderful experiences like camping, going away in my family’s touring caravan for holidays and short breaks both in the UK and Europe, gymnastics, dancing, swimming, being a Brownie and then later a Girl Guide and being a member of a local Youth Club. As a young adult my love of fitness, swimming and dancing continued. One of my favourite memories is attending an adult tap class with my mum. At 18 I went to university and spent a year of the undergraduate course studying over in Bremen, Germany. I came out with a 2.1 BA (Hons) in European Finance and Accounting (with German). I can remember the university being both supportive and accommodating with regards my IBS. In the 1990s and early 2000s I had various roles working in accounts and finance. Then in 2003 Toys and Clothes Limited was established. Around this time, I decided to leave my then role in finance/IT support and work fulltime for Toys and Clothes Limited. Whilst earlier business activities included ecommerce, retail and crafting, the sole business activity currently is whatsgoodtodo.com.
Until my early forties the main health challenge I had to deal with was IBS which I have had since I was around 18 years old. Generally, the approach I have taken is just carrying on but whilst making sure that when I am out and about, I know where toilet facilities are located. Then, in my early forties I was hit with what felt like a lot health diagnosis wise. To give some background, during my twin pregnancy I experienced some mobility issues which along with chronic pain continued after my twin sons were born. In early 2016 I was diagnosed with ehlers danlos syndrome hypermobility type which is a rare genetic condition. The same year I was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In 2017 I was then diagnosed with adjustment disorder (depression and anxiety). Thankfully this has been stable for a number of years because I manage it so well. This all took time to adjust to and I have to admit that I really do miss some elements of my life prior to this ‘new normal’, for example, doing high impact exercise sessions, but I have found a new love of yoga, meditation and low impact fitness sessions. I have become good at adapting things I enjoy, for example these days I enjoy seasonal pitch caravanning rather than touring (note – it is not my own caravan. I am just lucky to have use of it). I had pretty much ruled out caravanning until I became aware of seasonal pitches for touring caravans. I also think that dealing with the challenges which I have faced over the past few years have made me more empathic and understanding of others. I have also met and grown beautiful friendships with others in a similar situation.
In 2018 I started studying i-MA Law part-time as an online postgraduate course. Whilst I did hit pause on my course after completing my exams due to wanting to prioritise family life/home schooling during the COVID 19 situation for a while, I submitted my LRIP in 2022 and was over the moon to come out with a Masters in Law (commendation). During the course of my postgraduate study I discovered that I have a learning difficulty of a dyspraxic nature. I am very thankful for the wonderful 1:1 study support which I got through my disabled student allowance and the fantastic reasonable adjustments put in place by the university.
I do now wish to touch upon some of the challenges I have experienced over the past few years since becoming disabled:
- Being refused access to accessible toilets – I was recently, when desperate to use the toilet (I have incontinence as well as IBS), refused access to the only available accessible toilet and told that that toilet is only available for those with additional needs to use. There are 3 accessible toilets at this location, but one was out of order at the time and the other had been in use for some time. In the end to avoid a situation of being caught short I begged a member of staff to let me into the ladies toilets. Whilst I did have my walking stick with me at the time, I would like to see more awareness of invisible disabilities.
- Having no seat on tubes, trains or buses or having people shove past me when I was trying to get onto tubes or trains – To anyone else who has been in a similar situation, I would like to suggest booking assisted travel or asking train/tube staff to help you get on the train/tube.
- Struggling to find a property to rent privately – As a single mum of 3 working part-time due to my health/disabilities, I have experienced not having enough income to privately rent a property without having a guarantor/guarantors. Some years back I was turned down for a property I applied for through a letting agent because a landlord had concerns about myself keeping up with the upkeep of the property.
- Lack of understanding – I have found this to be better since the challenges I was dealing with have been labelled.
- Lack of part time jobs / job share roles – More recently I decided to apply for part time work which I could do alongside running Toys and Clothes Limited. Working full time is not an option for me as the way I manage my health conditions/disabilities so well is by working part-time. Unfortunately, there are not many part-time finance/accounts/admin roles available. I would like to see more companies/organisations offering part-time roles and job share. If there are any companies/organisations out there who offer part-time roles or job share we would like to hear from you as I plan to dedicate a post on www.whatsgoodtodo.com to getting word out about such roles. Please contact myself (Debbie) on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a part-time or job share role you are recruiting for added to this planned new website resource.
Over the coming weeks I hope to add some useful resources to www.whatsgoodtodo.com. Please do email myself (Debbie) on email@example.com if you would like to put forward a resource link for consideration.
If you are experiencing difficulties in finding a part time role, have you considered starting your own business or working for yourself?