How Channel 4 helped me to embrace my disability

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Trailblazer Emma Clifford, 28 and from South Yorkshire, blogs about her work experience placement with Channel 4 television

Not all disabilities are obvious to the human eye at first glance.

Physically to look at me, my disability is quite silent. I don’t look like a ‘disabled person’. I’m not in a wheelchair; I don’t have a missing limb. It has been really hard for me to come to terms with my disability. I hadn’t lived actively with LGMD for 24 years and suddenly the simplest tasks were a struggle.

My whole life I wanted a career in TV and film production. I convinced myself for many years, even before my diagnosis, that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I wouldn’t make it and it would be a waste of time. When I was diagnosed as disabled, well that just confirmed my fears. I would never make it.  I was filling out application forms to return to education and was picking careers that a ‘disabled’ person could do, basically anything that involved sitting at a desk all day. Then I thought back to the 11 year old me that always said ‘tell me I can’t, I’ll show you I can’, and what a way to prove that now.

Fast forward two years and I have just finished my foundation degree in Film and Television Production with my top up year to a BA HONS starting in September 2016. I am hoping to study my master’s degree in America in 2017/2018.

Back in February I applied to Channel 4’s work experience scheme. At first I was reluctant to even state I had a disability. I thought if I don’t put it down it won’t affect my chances and I will be like everybody else. Due to the negativity I had experienced in the past, I thought ‘why would they take me when they can have someone more abled to do the job, who could do it quicker and be more efficient?’

But then I realized my disability is what makes me stand out from the rest. It’s a part of me, its who I am. I didn’t want to make excuses for myself because of my disability. I was honestly gob smacked when I found out I had been successful.

I worked in the 4Talent department at Channel 4 and spent much of my time organizing future events, taking over Channel 4’s social media accounts and sitting in on various meetings, one of which was to help Scope and Channel 4 understand why disabled people are scarce in the media industry. I was even sent out of the office to help out at an employment agency that work closely with Channel 4 where I learnt brand new analytic skills.

Having a disability enables you to think about other things that you wouldn’t necessarily think about and this really helped when planning events and looking at social media. Some tasks enabled me to work alone and with my own initiative, which showed me they trusted me. I learnt how to be confident and talk about my ideas and I improved my communication skills.

From the offset, the 4Talent team were helpful and supportive. They made sure I was able to get myself around London and made it clear help was needed whenever or however I required it. But it wasn’t forced. This allowed me to be independent and feel ‘normal’.  I did feel nervous to begin with as I thought what if I can’t do a task and I am just wasting everybody’s time but not once did I ever feel like I couldn’t do something.  

I’m now starting to embrace my disability and am eager to change people’s views on disabled people. Channel 4 personally helped me to learn having a disability doesn’t need to control you. It shouldn’t stop you from doing anything.

The week was inspiring and valuable and I learnt so much about the impact disabled people have in the workplace.  I have discovered so many new paths I could take in my future career just by spending the week networking and working with a disabled friendly, accepting and enthusiastic company.

Tips I would give to anyone applying for work experience is ‘just be you’. Be passionate and don’t hide away.

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