Accessible Working Opportunities for People Living With Chronic Illness

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As you may know if you've read our story, our Chief Sender of Hugs, Faye, launched BearHugs after falling ill in her early twenties. Originally diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome /M.E. and later with Lyme disease, Faye found that although able to work in some capacity, she wasn't able to find employment that was a good fit due to the fluctuating nature of her condition.

Faye is now incredibly passionate about:

  • offering flexible, accessible, remote opportunities for people who find themselves in similar shoes
  • encouraging other employers to consider accessibility for people with chronic, often "invisible", health conditions

BearHugs is proud to be a Disability Confident Employer and hopes to show that improved accessibility can strengthen and open up opportunities for businesses and organisations.

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Here's what Faye has to say about the importance of accessible employment

"Running BearHugs involves managing a lot of moving parts. This involves everything from managing our offices to our stock to our website to our social media to our finance to our staff and, of course, our orders and our customers. 

I don’t do everything perfectly, but I do manage and I like to think I do ok.

Yet only a few years ago, I wasn’t even a viable candidate for a lot of job vacancies. 

Because of chronic illness, I wasn’t able to carry out a conventional 9-5 job, which ruled me out of the majority of working opportunities. 

I was capable and I knew I had a lot to offer, however, due to the varying nature of my illness, I struggled to find a role that was a good fit. 

The hurdles weren’t about my abilities, they were about accessibility.

That was a key motivator for me in starting my own business. I wanted something that matched my capability, needs and lifestyle. And now I want to offer opportunities to others which match their capability, needs and lifestyle.

There is an enormous amount of untapped potential out there as a result of employers not considering accessibility requirements when curating their working environments. 

There are so many great candidates employers are denying themselves the opportunity to work with simply by not taking these requirements into consideration.

Can any company really consider themselves innovative if from the outset they are denying a large portion of the population the opportunity to work for them? 

Accessibility, even for wheelchair users, is about far more than offering wheelchair ramps.

I hope that all employers make it a priority to become Disability Confident.

Almost a fifth of the working age population in the UK is disabled. There is a huge number of talented candidates out there eager for the right opportunity, and the longer an employer takes in acknowledging and catering for this, the further they will be left behind when it comes to making the necessary adjustments.

You want your company to reflect what you would like to see in society, and the sooner you build these ideas into the ethos of your company, the sooner the entire work that your company carries out becomes infused with these values."