Tom sitsAs you might expect from someone who writes a column such as this, I’m very open about my Cerebral Palsy. I’m also well known for making jokes at my own expense and trying to deal as directly with my disability as possible. So, a few weeks ago I was shocked to discover that it’s not always that straightforward.

From Able Magazine #110 (March/April 2014)

One of the most crucial times to be upfront, I have always thought, is when starting a new job or project. I was recently invited to a meeting to discuss my access requirements for a new play that I am about to start working on with a able-bodied company. By the end of the meeting all of my support needs had been thoroughly and satisfactorily discussed, alongside any actions that needed to be taken. However, the assessor still had one question left: ‘Will you tell the rest of the company about your disability?’

All kinds of questions dashed through my mind, ‘Do they really need to know? What would be the result or telling everyone? Why shouldn’t they know?’ and  completely without warning, ‘Will anyone think any less of me because of my condition?’

There must have been a very long pause in the conversation because the assessor said kindly, ‘Just think about it. It’s completely your choice.’ And before I knew it the conversation had moved on leaving me feeling rather foolish. Of course, I understand that these are perfectly natural and reasonable concerns but I honestly hadn’t expected them to enter my head.

In order to set the record straight this is what I feel that I should have said: Yes, if anyone asks me I will make it clear that I have Cerebral Palsy. I shall tell them the truth and explain to them that I am extremely proud to be a disabled person. However, as discussed my disability has no negative impact on my ability to work alongside the other company members and so why make it the first topic of conversation? I see no reason to share it with everyone as the first thing I say – no-one really wants me to be a bore on the subject!

I wish I’d thought to say that as soon as the question was asked. Of course everyone will have a different opinion on this but I suggest, whatever your stance, that you do the same – don’t get caught out as I did. Disability can be both an intensely personal and difficult subject to talk about at the best of times and so being aware is never a bad thing. Perhaps my opinion will change over time; it’s never a bad thing to keep questioning but in the future I will always aim to be clear. After all I’ve shared it with you now.

Tom is a Radio (BA Hons) graduate of the University of Glamorgan.