Friday 3 December marks the International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD) and the launch of new Access to Work guidance at the Royal Free London.

As a disability confident employer, the trust is committed to ensuring that the reasonable adjustments required by its disabled staff and staff with long-term conditions are supported.

International Day of People with Disabilities is a day of:

Celebration – to recognise and value the diversity of our community, and to value the role we all play, regardless of our abilities.
Learning – to understand and learn from the experiences of people with living with a disability.
Optimism – to look towards the future and the creation of a world where a person is not characterised by their disabilities, but by their abilities.
Action – where all people, organisations, agencies and charities take on a commitment to create a world characterised by equal human rights.


Jan Eversfield, co-chair of Ability@TheFree, shares her experience working as a disabled nurse:


Ability@TheFree is a staff network in place to support staff with disabilities and long-term conditions. Jan Eversfield is a palliative care CNS and co-chair of Ability@TheFree. 

I have lived with one neurological condition for over 20 years. I now have a second which is as yet formally not diagnosed. Both of these conditions affect my neurological and muscular systems and are progressing. For me, as a palliative care nurse who is disabled, and previously been a manager, there are two aspects of living with a long term condition (LTC)/disability that I feel are pertinent. 


Equality in disability at work

The 2010 Equality Act outlined key aspects for many people in ‘protected characteristic’ groups. Work continues in these areas, has been and is being done to further improve equality for all groups

People need to feel safe to say they have a disability. There must be open discussion around any reasonable adjustments the organisation can provide internally and support offered (eg. flexible working). A disabled person being able to access the right support depends greatly on the culture of the organisation, who need to see disabled people equally, as skilled workers and address barriers. 


Recognising your own limitations and dealing with uncertainty

As co-chair of our fantastic Disability Staff Network I can attest to collaborative working with our trust leaders and other staff networks to further improve equality for all. This work we hope also positively impacts the experience of those in our care. 

On a personal note, I both struggle with the massive uncertainty around my disability getting worse but also recognise my responsibility in understanding my limitations at work.  I have honest open dialogue with my managers who are supportive and understanding.

My advice for anyone struggling with their long-term conditions or disability and work are: 

  • Access support to help you figure out where you are and if you are being treated fairly according to Equality Law. This support could be through coaching, Occupational Health Services will be able to give advice and psychological support is available. Get in touch with our network Ability@TheFree 
  • Separate out work and personal distress – be proactive in talking to colleagues/organisations about what you feel you could do at work and be open to opportunities 
  • Understand there are periods of adjustment, denial and acceptance – and a lot more besides to work through. Be gentle with yourself 
  • Speak to unions or The Disability Law Service
  • On Twitter #DisabilityTwitter & #NEISvoid are great threads to follow as well as @AbilityTheFree  
  • Talk to those close to you, they may be feeling helpless and sometimes they can feel less helpless by you being clear about what you need from them. That’s what love and friendship is all about. Find your ‘tribe’ whatever that looks like.