Breaking Barriers with ENABLE Works

They say “do a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” and I can confidently say that since taking up my position as Employment Co-ordinator for ENABLE Works, I am one of the very lucky people who absolutely loves their job!

I came to ENABLE Works in 2019 having graduated the year before from an MEd in which I specialised in looking at the representation of disability in the classroom and addressing the issue of inclusion. I have always been passionate about advocating for the acceptance and understanding of children and young people with disabilities in education and combatting the misinformed and stereotypical views they face every day.

It is a cause very close to my heart as someone very special to me grew up with Diamond-Blackfan anaemia, a very rare blood disease, and is also autistic- meaning throughout his time at school and college he faced barriers and challenges that made us wonder what his future would hold and what kind of experience he would have after school, what opportunities were out there for him?

When I moved to Glasgow and focused my studies on disability and education, it was disheartening to say the least. Statistics show that around 14,000 pupils in schools in Scotland have a learning disability, and yet in 2016 only 4% of school leavers who have a learning disability went into higher education, compared with 46% of all school leavers that year. After spending a year researching this situation and writing about inclusive education and what needed to be done to ensure people like those close to me would be given the same opportunity I had to attend university, I was thrilled in December 2019 to find out I was going to be the new co-ordinator for the Breaking Barriers programme.

Breaking Barriers, an award-winning, first-of-its-kind partnership that works towards ENABLE’s vision of equality of access to the opportunities that world class education and organisations can provide; where people who have learning disabilities are equal and valued members of an inclusive university community.

If you had asked me to write a description for my dream job, I’m not sure I could have come up with anything better.

Breaking Barriers is a programme about everything I am passionate about and I get to play a part in supporting young people with disabilities to attend one of the leading business schools in the UK, work with them throughout their applied learning work placements and be a part of their education journey until they graduate and decide what path to take next.

Even this year with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Breaking Barriers has stepped up and adapted to not only become a source of community support for our participants, but we’ve adapted the programme to include a remote work placement to ensure our students this year complete their qualification and get to walk across that stage at graduation in the hopefully not too distant future.

This is a life-changing experience for our participants and the best part of working on Breaking Barriers is getting to meet so many brilliant young people who are incredibly bright, capable students and being a part of their journey to becoming the confident, independent and empowered people I work with today- who may not have had this university experience otherwise.

This is much more than an education and employment programme and I hope one day programmes like this will be commonplace in universities across the UK.

This partnership enables young people with a learning disability to have the university experience that is a rite of passage for so many young people across the world, but available to so few with a disability.

ENABLE Works are determined to change that and having seen the profound impact this programme has had on some of the young people who have taken part, I can’t wait to meet the next cohort of students who will join us to break these barriers together.

Breaking Barriers is recruiting for next academic year! If you are a disabled person between 16 and 24 in the greater Glasgow area – please get in touch with Emma.Malcolmson@enable.org.uk to find out more.