Gregory Burke, 33, is a wheelchair user. He applied to Cambridge University and despite only having done coursework-based study, he was given an interview by King”sCollege. He studied history there and stayed on to do an MPhil in Labour Party conferences, followed by a PhD in political leadership. While at university he set up DisabledGo, of which he is chief executive, primarily because of his own frustration at not knowing what buildings he could access.
What”s your background?
I contracted encephalitis when I was 16. At its nadir, I had to be washed, fed and dressed. I went to what was laughingly called a “young” disabled rehabilitation unit, which was for those under 65! I was under their care for two and a half years. I was eventually discharged and went to Chichester FE College as a wheelchair user and was only able to walk very short distances. When I went to university I could sit up for 40 minutes at a time and my handwriting was extremely poor: both have now improved, as has my ability to walk. I was at an old university, but best online casino some lecturers made sure they chose accessible venues for me and some lecture notes were made available to me. I owe an awful lot to my university.They did lots of things to help but they were dealing with unaccessible buildings. The common room was up a flight of stairs, which led to a number of isolated years, and was probably the basis for DisabledGo.
How did you handle your job hunt?
DisabledGo came about after I wrenched my shoulder. While I was recovering I simply could not get access to key things like lectures. At DisabledGo we have major employers like Ernst & Young and BT advertising their positions on our website, www.disabledgo.info. We also do access guides to universities and colleges. If students are thinking about postgraduate study they can see which university would be the best place to meet access requirements. We have surveyed around 60,000 venues – from job centres to transport interchanges. Every single venue is reviewed in person using the same research methodology.
Did you face any barriers?
Lots of people like to put up barriers. My message is that there are barriers, but they are not as great as some people like to paint. We must have faith that we can overcome them.
Any tips for fellow graduates?
My first piece of advice, which is suitable for any graduate, is to work out what it is you want to do; you need to be fulfilled because life is short. My second piece of advice is that, although stereotypes carried by people about disability are changing over time, this is the real world. So you have to take a leadership position in the interview. If you need something to be done you should present a solution to your potential employer. For example, if you have a visual impairment it might require a larger screen, software and a desk that is well lit. There is an “Access to Work” fund that pays 100 per cent of approved costs for disabled people to work. The average cost to make an adjustment is just £76,
so think about what can be done logically and clearly.